Tim Keller on Death

Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

Most particularly for me as a Christian, Jesus’s costly love, death, and resurrection had become not just something I believed and filed away, but a hope that sustained me all day. I pray this prayer daily. Occasionally it electrifies, but ultimately it always calms:

And as I lay down in sleep and rose this morning only by your grace, keep me in the joyful, lively remembrance that whatever happens, I will someday know my final rising, because Jesus Christ lay down in death for me, and rose for my justification.

As this spiritual reality grows, what are the effects on how I live? One of the most difficult results to explain is what happened to my joys and fears. Since my diagnosis, Kathy and I have come to see that the more we tried to make a heaven out of this world—the more we grounded our comfort and security in it—the less we were able to enjoy it.

Timothy J. Keller in The Atlantic, “Growing My Faith in the Face of Death

Among Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, his ninth was this: “Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”

The modern age has revolutionized our thinking about death, mostly by keeping us from thinking much about it at all. Timothy Keller’s essay, which, as the title suggests, is firstly about his faith while also being about his death, cedes as much. Keller, a pastor for many years, confesses that he too, at least in part, had been taken in by the prevalent assumption that we’ll somehow get out of life alive.

Keller has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The counsel and comfort he had offered to parishioners through the years was suddenly up for a fresh examination. At 70, Keller looked ahead to many more years of life. His diagnosis revealed that death was nearer than assumed.

His essay is worth reading in full. His fullest wisdom, solidified through his experience of his confrontation with death, is to live as a heavenly minded person, not as a way of escapism from this world, but as a means of entering into gratitude for this world and everything God has accomplished and will accomplish through his glorious work of redemption, initiated, enacted, and one day fully realized in the already and even yet coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Discern, then Respond

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