On Thursday, May 18th, I, along with many others, read the sad news that Tim Keller was being sent home from the hospital and put into hospice care. The situation seemed dire, except that Tim had expressed his longing to see Jesus. Michael Keller, Tim’s son, shared these words from Tim in a post:
“I’m thankful for all the people who’ve prayed for me over the years. I’m thankful for my family, that loves me. I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.”
I was saddened by the seeming imminence of Tim’s passing and spent that night in restless fits of prayer for Tim and his family.
I woke up early on the 19th and immediately grabbed my phone to check and see if there was any news on Tim. There was nothing. At that point, I thought perhaps Tim would have a few days, a week, maybe even longer. Perhaps the Lord would come through and heal him at the last minute. After all, many had been praying for that very thing. It was not to be.
A few minutes later I received a text from my daughter that read, “Tim passed.” My daughter lives in New York and had been a member of Redeemer and, therefore, had received an email informing church members of the passing of their beloved pastor.
Reflecting on Tim Keller’s Impact
The first public post I read was from Russell Moore, a personal friend of Tim’s, who said regarding Tim’s death,
“This is an incalculable loss for the church, the world, to those of us who loved him, those of us he helped…”
I concur with Russell. Tim has been such an encouragement and blessing to so many. It’s hard to think of him not being here, and it’s hard to understand why, at the age of 72, he was taken. He seemed to still have so much more to offer. In the end, these are the things we have to leave with the Lord, trusting He knows better than we do.
It did make me think though of others who seemed to have left us far too soon—C.S. Lewis who died at 65, and earlier, Charles Spurgeon who died at 57. Ironically, Lewis is more popular today than when he died in 1963, and I have no doubt that although Tim has passed, he will continue to speak to, teach, encourage, and inspire many generations to come.
On the day after Tim passed, I decided I’d celebrate Tim by relistening to his teaching series on the Attributes of God. There I was, running along the beach in So Cal being absolutely edified as I listened to Tim brilliantly argue the case for The God Who Is.
Tim Keller, like Abel (Hebrews 11:4), “being dead still speaks.”
Gratitude for Tim Keller’s Influence
As many have expressed their thankfulness for Tim, I too am forever grateful for his impact on my life. Both his teaching and his example of a wise, godly, winsome witness for Christ have left their mark on me.
There’s much I’d like to say about both of those things but time will not permit that here. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend his teaching whether in audio format or written form. This is the treasure he’s left us with. I didn’t always agree with Tim, but I always appreciated the evident thoughtfulness he put into his particular view on a biblical text or theological position.
My greatest appreciation of Tim is on a more personal level. Tim had a tremendous impact on my family, namely my children. As any parent knows, the one thing we want more than anything else is for our children to know and follow Jesus. All four of my children have been greatly impacted by Tim Keller, some through his teaching and example, others through a more personal experience with him.
I mentioned earlier my daughter being connected with Redeemer NYC. Some years ago, my daughter and her family moved to NYC specifically to attend Redeemer, and for my son-in-law Michael Smith to attend RTS, at Redeemer, with Tim.
Michael was among the first graduating class of the new seminary and subsequently joined the staff of Redeemer. He and Tim developed a friendship and remained in touch even after Tim’s retirement and Michael’s moving on from Redeemer to plant a church in Manhattan’s lower east side.
From Disillusionment to Faith: Tim Keller’s Impact on My Son’s Spiritual Journey
During those early years my youngest son Braden joined my daughter in NYC in order to attend Redeemer and sit under Tim’s teaching.
On the night Braden was about to give up his faith, at about 3 am, he remembered that he’d promised his sister that he’d listen to a message by Tim Keller she’d sent him. Months had passed since she’d sent the message in an attempt to help her little brother with some of the disillusionment he was experiencing regarding Christianity. While the message remained embedded in the text on his phone, he’d forgotten all about it until that moment, lying there on his bed in York, England, contemplating life beyond Christianity.
So there, out of love and a felt obligation to his sister, he hit play on the recording and for the first time heard Tim’s teaching. The message was on The Prodigal God.
Braden later told me that God was speaking directly to him through Tim, revealing things about Himself and about Jesus that he’d never heard or considered before. By the end of the message Braden had committed himself to Jesus, and in his own words, had become a Christian.
Braden would eventually move to NYC, attend Redeemer, and have occasional conversations with the man he so admired, the man who helped him understand the grace and love of Jesus like he’d never understood it before.
That man was Tim Keller, and for that reason and many others (there are more stories I could tell about Tim’s impact on my other children), I thank God for Tim Keller.
After my son Braden read my comments on Tim’s impact on his life, he reminded me of the more specific details of the story that began that night in York, England.
Here’s the fuller story…
From Braden: I wouldn’t say I became a Christian then and there, but that Tim’s teaching greatly stirred me. I felt that he was talking about the same things I had heard all my life but with clarity and insight I hadn’t yet heard before.
The Prodigal God study marked the beginning of my “waking up”. I started listening to his other teachings day in and day out in York and continued upon my return to California. When I returned to California, I picked up Tim’s book “Jesus the King” (previously titled “King’s Cross”).
Not even all the way through that book, I found that Jesus was far more beautiful and far more loving than I could ever dare imagine. The efforts Christ went to just to be a part of my life were far more costly to him than I could ever have fathomed.
I knew, then, that I am loved no matter what. I gave my life to Jesus, and my head, which had years of knowledge about Jesus, Yahweh God, and His Spirit, finally connected to my heart… so much so that I burst into joyous tears, sobbing at the astounding magnitude that I am adored by Jesus.