Keller began his workshop by referencing Alec Motyer’s observation that a preacher has two responsibilities: first, to the truth he proclaims, and second, to the people to whom he proclaims it. Books on preaching tend to focus on the first, neglecting the equally vital work of contextualization and application. This imbalance partly explains why much expository preaching fails to speak to the heart.
The biblical understanding of the heart is unique in human thought. Throughout history, humans have tended to pit the mind and the heart against one another: ancient cultures by elevating reason and virtue to squelch the emotions, and modern cultures by elevating self-expression as the highest goal. In the Bible, however, the heart is the seat of not just our emotions, but also our deepest trust. Preaching to the heart touches not just the emotions, but the entire person, including our thought and will.
The Six Gospel Appeals:
- Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death. Hebrews 2: 14– 18 speaks about Christ delivering us from the bondage of the fear of death. In Hebrews 10: 31, we are told it is a terrible thing to fall under the judgment of the living God.
- Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame. Galatians 3: 10– 12 tells us we are under the curse of the law. Guilt is not only objective; it can also be a subjective inner burden on our consciences (Ps 51). If we feel we have failed others or even our own standards, we can feel a general sense of shame and low self-worth. The Bible offers relief from these weights.
- Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the “attractiveness of truth.” Carson writes: “The truth can appear wonderful… [they can] see its beauty and its compelling nature.” In 1 Corinthians 1: 18, Paul states that the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. Yet, immediately after this statement, Paul argues that the wisdom of the cross is the consummate wisdom. Paul is reasoning here, appealing to the mind. He is showing people the inconsistencies in their thinking (e.g., “your culture’s wisdom is not wisdom by its own definition”). He holds up the truth for people to see its beauty and value, like a person holding up a diamond and calling for people to admire it.
- Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings. To the woman at the well Jesus promised “living water” (John 4). This was obviously more than just eternal life — he was referring to an inner joy and satisfaction to be experienced now, something the woman had been seeking in men.
- Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem. There are many forms of what Carson calls “a despairing sense of need.” He points to the woman with the hemorrhage (Matt 9: 20 – 21), the two men with blindness (Matt 9: 27), and many others who go to Jesus first for help with practical , immediate needs. Their heart language is, “I’m stuck; I’m out of solutions for my problems. I need help for this!” The Bible shows that Jesus does not hesitate to give that help, but he also helps them see their sin and their need for rescue from eternal judgment as well (see Mark 2: 1– 12; Luke 17: 11– 19).
- Lastly, the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved . The person of Christ as depicted in the Gospels is a compellingly attractive person. His humility, tenderness, wisdom, and especially his love and grace draw people like a magnet. Dick Lucas, longtime pastor at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, has said that in the Bible God does not give us a watertight argument so much as a watertight person against whom, in the end, there can be no argument. There is an instinctive desire in all human beings to be loved. A clear depiction of Christ’s love can attract people to want a relationship with him.
In conclusion, Carson argues, “We do not have the right to choose only one of these motivations in people and to appeal to it restrictively.”
Tim Keller, Center Church
Sin reaps two terrible consequences. One consequence is spiritual bondage (Rom 6: 15– 18). We may believe in God or we may not believe, but either way, we never make him our greatest hope, good, or love. We try to maintain control of our lives by living for other things — for money, career, family, fame, romance, sex, power, comfort, social and political causes, or something else. But the result is always a loss of control, a form of slavery. Everyone has to live for something, and if that something is not God, then we are driven by that thing we live for — by overwork to achieve it, by inordinate fear if it is threatened, deep anger if it is being blocked, and inconsolable despair if it is lost. So the novelist David Foster Wallace, not long before his suicide, spoke these words to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College:
Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship . And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough , never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid , and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Kindle Locations 665-677). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
In his history classes, C. John Sommerville used to demonstrate to students how thoroughly Christianized they were, even those who were atheistic or antireligious. He would list the values of shame-and-honor cultures (like those of pagan northern Europe before the advent of Christian missionaries ) and include values like pride , a strict ethic of revenge, the instilling of fear, the supreme importance of one’s reputation and name, and loyalty to one’s tribe. Then he would list corresponding Christian values, which had been hitherto unknown to the pagans of Europe — things like humility, forgiveness, peaceableness, and service to others, along with an equal respect for the dignity of all people made in God’s image. Many of Sommerville’s most antireligious students were surprised to learn just how deeply they had been influenced by ways of thinking and living that had grown out of biblical ideas and been passed on to them through complex social and cultural processes.
Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Kindle Locations 6107-6114). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
See C. John Sommerville, The Decline of the Secular University (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 69– 70.
When we present to the Gospel to people in other cultures (and the “other” may be from a different part of the country, or a different background — as well as a different country). We need to be careful to assume our own cultural prejudices will apply. Keller gives an example involving the ideas of “freedom” (which Americans like), “honor” (which Americas willingly trade for “fame”), “kings” (which Americas only like in movies & magazines), predestination (which Americans think is evil & insane):
In general, Western societies make an idol out of individual freedom and embrace love and acceptance as attributes of God. Grace and forgiveness sound attractive, but sin and retributive judgment are difficult to accept. In other cultures that make an idol of honor, the Christian idea of deep human depravity is self-evident, while the biblical concepts of free grace and forgiveness are seen as weakness or injustice. Retribution is critical, not only to maintain dignity, but also to keep order in society. People in these cultures are naturally more comfortable with the sovereignty, justice, and holiness of God.
A real-life example of this dynamic comes from a discussion with a Korean-American pastor, Dr. Stephen Um, in which we talked about a book that contended that people could not accept the idea of a God who judged and sent people to hell. Stephen responded that the statement was culturally narrow.
He related how his grandfather struggled with Christianity. His grandfather had no objection to the idea of hell. He had seen firsthand how evil human beings could be, and he had no problem with a God who judged people for their actions. His real concern was with the concept of free grace— that forgiveness could be extended to someone regardless of what they had done in the past. His culture did not value this idea, and so the “A” doctrine to him (the acceptable belief) was not God’s love but God’s justice. Free grace was the doctrine he found objectionable.
He then gave an example involving work with prostitutes in Korea:
No one denies there are biblical texts that talk about God predestining and electing people to believe in him, though there is plenty of controversy about what these passages exactly mean. In our Western, democratic, egalitarian culture, the idea of God’s sovereignty and his control of all things is definitely a “B” doctrine [an idea which is not acceptable in a culture]. We don’t like those parts of the Bible that talk about God being completely in charge of history, or those parts where he opens the hearts of those chosen for eternal life (Acts 13: 48; 16: 14).
So when sharing the gospel, we avoid this doctrine at all costs. For most of us in the West, predestination is not just a “B” doctrine; it’s a “C” [completely unacceptable to even consider within a culture] doctrine!
This missionary, however, realized that this was not necessarily true in mid-twentieth-century Korea. So he told the prostitutes about a God who is a King. Kings, he said, have a sovereign right to act as they saw fit. They rule — that’s just what kings do. And this great divine King chooses to select people out of the human race to serve him, simply because it is his sovereign will to do so. Therefore, his people are saved because of his royal will, not because of the quality of their lives or anything they have done. This made sense to the women.
They had no problem with idea of authority figures acting in this way — it seemed natural and right to them. But this also meant that when people were saved, it was not because of pedigree or virtue or effort, but because of the will of God (cf. John 1: 13). Their acceptance of this belief opened up the possibility of understanding and accepting the belief in salvation by grace.
Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Kindle Locations 3379-3391). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The roof came off. That is, you had the devout, you had the secular, and you had that middle ground that made it hard to speak disrespectfully of traditional values. That middle ground now has not so much gone secular, but they more identified with this side. They are identified with expressive individualism, and so they don’t want to tell anybody how to live their lives. And so what that means now of course is that the devout suddenly realize that they are out there, that the umbrella is gone, and they are taking a lot of flak for their views, just public flak.
Useful article which cites D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Sandy Willson, Matt Perman and Glen Lucke on the topic of plagiarism in preaching.
Carson provides a helpful matrix in which to analyze the issue:
Taking over another sermon and preaching it as if it were yours is always and unequivocally wrong, and if you do it you should resign or be fired immediately. The wickedness is along at least three axes: (1) You are stealing. (2) You are deceiving the people to whom you are preaching. (3) Perhaps worst, you are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God, and equips you to speak for him. If preaching is God’s truth through human personality (so Phillips Brooks), then serving as nothing more than a kind of organic recording device in playback mode does not qualify.
What about something less? After 2,000, there is quite a bit which has been said, and much that is useful. Most pastor’s have many books which discuss the text and often have done a great deal of reading before they preach. What crosses the line?
Willson provides a helpful guideline:
Any direct quote is always attributed to the author in full.
Any ideas that I found in my reading that are uniquely attributable to one scholar or author are normally attributed to him.
If there are a number of unique ideas from one author, I may make a general attribution to his overall influence on my thinking at the beginning of my sermon.
Ideas that I discovered from several others that were not my own are usually covered by simply saying, “a number of scholars suggest that . . .”
Books or articles that I have found helpful are often shared with the congregation for their own edification.
If my sermons are published or sold on websites or CDs, I must be even more scrupulous to acknowledge all of my sources through footnotes and comments in order to avoid “stealing” from my brother or sister.
Ron Forseth tackles the issue from a different direction in his article published on Church Leaders. Rather than merely examining word use, he also examines the matter of the heart of the pastor and effect on the congregation:
I believe that conscience is one of three major issues here. “Am I guarding my own conscience in my sermon preparation and delivery?” I must add that my conscience has to guide me, and your conscience has to guide you. If the conscience of others dictates my own, then my conscience will incessantly be conflicted. We aren’t wired to be driven by the conscience of another; each person’s conscience must stand or fall on its own. The conscience of some preachers compels them to cite meticulously; others aren’t so compelled. We must have faith before God that our sermon preparation is approved by him.
“Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Corinthians 10:29 NIV)
The second major issue is diligence. “Am I faithfully studying the Word that I am preaching?” If using the work of another is simply an excuse or temptation to neglect my solemn duty, I’ve strayed from my calling. Chuck Swindoll emphasized this to me over and over in an interview: “Sermon preparation is hard work.” We are workers.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)
The third major issue is that of trust. Frankly, I think this issue brings the most clarity to Scott Gibson’s question. If our mode of sermon preparation breaks trust with those to whom we preach, then the answer to the question posed by the book’s title is a clear, “No.” How can a relationship proceed with broken trust? It cannot unless it is restored. And restoring trust is far more difficult than guarding trust in the first place. There are pastors who have paid with their jobs to demonstrate this.
Tim Challies also notes another trouble with plagiarism, it’s stealing from the congregation:
A couple of weeks ago we had a touching moment in our church. My pastor, immediately before he began to deliver his sermon, addressed the congregation, thanking them for providing him with the opportunity of being supported in the privilege of spending his weeks studying the Bible. As a pastor, he feels his most important responsibility (and his greatest privilege) is in studying God’s Word, and then delivering that Word to the people. In an interview I conducted recently with Mark Dever, he said much the same: that a pastor’s primarily responsibility is to serve his church by absorbing himself in the study of the Bible. Rarely can a church outgrow the pastor. The pastor must lead the way in studying the Word. This must be his primary occupation and must take precedence over other tasks, and even important tasks, such as pastoral counselling or providing leadership.
A pastor who plagiarizes sermons is clearly not fulfilling his primary responsibility. He is not investing time and effort in studying the Word, in understanding the Word, and in helping others understand what God has taught him. Furthermore, he is being unethical in allowing his congregation to believe that the sermons he delivers are his own work. I don’t think it is always wrong to preach sermons written by another person. I heard of a pastor who preached a series called “Sermons I Wish I’d Written.” He did not try to pass these sermons off as his own, but simply wanted to provide his congregation with what he considered some of history’s greatest sermons. Surely this is far different from a person who preaches those same sermons while pretending that he has written them himself.
Matt Perman on the Desiring God website provides the following explanation of the wrong of plagiarism:
The central problem with plagiarism is twofold: (1) it is stealing; and (2) it bears false witness. Obviously, both of these are unacceptable for Bible-believing Christians (see Exodus 20:15; Mark 10:19; Matthew 15:19, etc). Stealing and bearing false witness fail to love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:9). The words and ideas of another person are precisely that–their words or ideas. To fail to acknowledge their source is to give the false impression that they have originated with you. Hence, plagiarism steals from another and gives a false impression to your audience. Both of these factors should be of utmost concern to the Christian, and especially pastors and teachers whose should have the utmost respect for the sanctity of truth.
Mars Hill takes the following position:
IF I USE MATERIAL FROM ONE OF PASTOR MARK’S SERMON’S DO I NEED TO CITE HIM AS THE SOURCE OF THAT MATERIAL?
Yes. If you don’t cite him, you are plagiarizing. If you use content from one of Pastor Mark’s sermons or from one of his books, you need to attribute the content (whether it is a quote or paraphrase) to Pastor Mark. Also, even though we make transcripts available of our sermons, this does not mean you can take the transcript and deliver the sermon as though it is your own. This too is plagiarism.
The same answer applies to your use of sermon content from any other pastors and any of our blog posts.
A Secular Age, Affliction, Apologetics, Biblical Counseling, Buffered Self, Charles Taylor, Deism, Enlightenment, Immanent Frame, Tim Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, Western Thought
In chapter two of Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller begins by recounting the answer of Stoicism (which parallels in many ways and Buddhism) to suffering: the divine impersonal force is at work. Therefore, don’t give into to your affections, your hopes or loves, be restrained so that you will not be hurt. There is a future for you and your body, but it is impersonal, dissolved. You’ll be there, but you won’t know it.
Christianity triumphed over this worldview by placing suffering into a matrix of beliefs and valuations of the world. First, the universe is under control, but it is the control of a personal, wise, loving God. God is infinite and thus inscrutable. Second, God in Jesus Christ entered into the suffering of this world — most importantly on the cross. Thus, God has shown his love and power. Third, by entering into our suffering and having triumphed over death, salvation is now possible by grace through faith. This gives great comfort in suffering:
As Luther taught, suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. Secularity cannot give you that, and religions that provide for salvation through good works cannot give it, either (58).
Fourth, salvation will lead to restoration and resurrection of the body. There is a reversal of the loss of suffering and death.
Why then does Christianity seemingly suffer now when evil arises? At one time, Christianity’s strength in Western thought showed itself most brilliantly in the face of evil and suffering. Keller relies upon philosopher Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) for the observation that around 1500, Western thought shifted to an “immanent frame”:
He says that we live inside an “immanent frame,” the view that the world is a completely natural order without any supernatural. It is a completely ” ‘immanent’ world, over against a possible ‘transcedent’ one.” …Another phrase he uses is the “buffered self.”..It was often assumed that one was required to look outside of the self–to nature and to God–to learn the right way to live. Modern people, however, have a “buffered self,” a self that is bounded and self-contained. Because there is no transcedent, supernatural order outside of me, it is I who determine what I am and who I will be. (53).
By means of this intellectual move, coupled with deism which allowed only enough God to blame for trouble to remain, created the “problem of evil.” Before this move, Christianity had an answer to evil and suffering. Yet, after this move, a reduced God existed who had the job of making us comfortable and at ease. Rather than an infinitely holy God, who created us for his glory, and against whom we have sinned and need reconciliation through the cross because of our sin, we have a lesser “God”:
Instead, human beings’ main purpose is to use our reason and free will to support human flourishing….The older Christian idea that we exist for God’s glory receded and was replaced by the belief that God exists to nurture and sustain us (54).
Thus, the problem of evil stems in large part from a reduced God.
There is some question as to how to interpret Ecclesiastes 7:3, but when read with Proverbs 14:13, the strangeness of the proverb makes some sense:
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The depth of this relationship becomes even more profound when one considers also the paradox of joy and sorrow noted by Peter:
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:6-9. Tim Keller in in a wonderful sermon “Born Into Hope” (http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/born-hope), notes that the joy of the Christian which is utterly independent of present circumstances, because it is based upon a living, future hope, gives us the capacity to actually experience sorrow without fear. One without hope can only seek to rescue himself from sorrow lest he become destroyed. But the Christian’s hope gives us the expansiveness to know sorrow without despair.
At the beginning of 1 Thessalonians, Paul notes that the church received the word of The Lord with affliction and joy:
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. Since their joy was not dependent upon their context, it could not — and for the Christian who understands this well, cannot — be taken, even when sorrow comes and grieves the heart. Thus, even death, the greatest of all sorrows and losses becomes transformed:
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18