Late Sunday night, Redeemer Presbyterian Church released the last video message from its founding pastor, Dr. Tim Keller. The Pennsylvania native passed away on Friday morning at the age of 72 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Last November the leadership of the Redeemer family of churches decided to host a gathering of congregants from all of our churches called Redeemer Night,” the church wrote. “We scheduled it for May 19. In God’s good providence it was the day Tim Keller went to be with his Savior. Redeemer Night suddenly took on new meaning.”
“Tim was asked several weeks ago by our network pastoral leadership team to share a few thoughts on video about his vision moving forward for our network of churches and ministries. What had not been anticipated was that it would be his final word to the congregants of our five Redeemer churches. We share it with the hope that it will encourage and strengthen all who view it to love and serve Jesus in whatever context you find yourself.”
In his brief remarks, Dr. Keller left the Redeemer congregation and really, all of us, with three gems of advice. It was based out of the book of Jeremiah.
First, Tim urged his congregation to “Live on the Razor’s Edge.” What did he mean by that?
Dr. Keller pointed out that the Babylonians took the Jews to Babylon in order to compel them to lose their identity. That’s because the farther away from your homeland you go, the easier it is to forget your ways and roots.
That’s a mistake, Tim said, and the application for us is that Christians aren’t supposed to assimilate into the culture and lose our identities as believers.
“Keep your identity,” Dr. Keller urged. “Be different.”
Indeed, we’re called to stick out, and it’s our differences that will make us successful in our respective pursuits. When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, the alternative music radio station WPLJ used to have a slogan: “Dare to be Different.” That’s also good advice for Christians today.
The second nugget of advice Tim gave in the recording was: “Invest, don’t just consume.”
In other words, give back. The world can look bleak – just as it did when Jeremiah bought land in order to demonstrate his commitment. Consider where you live and then consider how you might best serve the people around you. Use your resources to give back, and be willing to build for a time you may never see.
Finally, Tim Keller urged his people: “Forget about your reputation.”
He pointed out that lots of people go to the city to make a name for themselves – even pastors. Of course, it’s not just cities. People are always trying to make a name for themselves anywhere and everywhere – and that’s a mistake.
It brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ great message on the “Inner Ring.” Lewis said we’re always striving to be somewhere we’re not; we’re always trying to be inside the “inner ring.” Instead, we should do what we love with the people we love – and create our own ring.
Maybe now more than ever, it’s important for Christians to not worry about their reputations. We’re called to do what’s right. Keller also warned not to make your ministry success – or lack of it – your identity. But that’s not just true about ministry success. It’s easy to tie our identity to any number of things – our professional life, our family life, our hobbies.
Instead of lifting up our own reputations, we should be lifting up Jesus’ name.
Dr. Timothy J. Keller was a teacher until the end.