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For this episode of Acton Line, we’re bringing you the remarks by Rev. Timothy J. Keller at the Acton Institute’s Annual Dinner in 2018, in which he spoke on identity, business, and the Christian gospel. Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, New York Times bestselling author, teacher, and arguably the most influential evangelical preacher of his generation died May 19, 2023, after a three-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72. He leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Kathy, and three sons: David, Michael, and Jonathan.
Keller’s winsome appeal and professorial demeanor grew an exploratory prayer group in 1989 to a 5,000-plus-member megachurch in the heart of the Big Apple, a supposed desert wasteland for spirituality. His impact on urban church planting, his ability to speak in a forthright and non-condescending manner to skeptics, and his deliberate avoidance of political partisanship were just a few qualities that made him stand out in a world of so-called celebrity preachers and would-be chaplains to the rich and famous. His intellectual curiosity wedded to a personal humility were also hallmarks of his unique ministry.
Through such books as The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, Generous Justice, and Making Sense of God, Keller argued for the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his all-sufficient sacrifice in a world of idols and “self-made” men and women. As he liked to sum it up: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Taped just a few weeks before his death, he left behind one final message for Redeemer Presbyterian Church and any who would wish to follow in his footsteps. “Forget about your reputation. Jeremiah 45:5: ‘Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.’ … Ministers, don’t make your ministry success your identity… People, don’t make getting a big name in New York City your main thing. Lift up Jesus’ name. Hallowed be thy name. Forget yourself.”
For those who had the honor to hear him, to be counseled by him, to be challenged by him—he will never be forgotten.
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