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All of us have been influenced by others. The obvious ones are parents and other family, friends, teachers, pastors, bosses, and co-workers. But there are others, people we've never had the opportunity to meet or know personally, who have influenced us from afar.   

One influential person in my life and ministry (I think of him as a long-distance mentor), is Tim Keller. Last week, after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Tim died. He taught me much through his books, sermons, and interviews. It can be odd, mourning someone I've never met.   

Even though Tim Keller and I wouldn't have agreed on everything, we held the same foundational faith convictions. Tim's love for the city was contagious. His desire to help people firmly grasp Jesus in our current world challenged me in many ways. He had the ability to be gracious and kind, even when others disagreed. His graciousness and humility gave me a great example to emulate.   

When the world seems to have lost its mind, when culture seems to be running blindly toward the dumpster, when fighting among the faithful makes the headlines, Tim Keller often provided something calming for me. An article in a popular newspaper, a blog post, or a quote online always reminded me of what was most important.   

Through his written and spoken words, Tim helped me to develop a deeper personal faith, and he challenged me to be deeper intellectually. He loved the Bible. He loved people. He longed for unity in a divided world. He cared deeply for those who are hurting. He shared the Gospel without hesitation. He loved the city and the local church. Why? Because he loved Jesus.   

Here are a few Tim Keller quotes:  

Religious people find God useful. Christians find God beautiful.   

Contemporary people tend to examine the Bible, looking for things they can't accept; but Christians should reverse that, allowing the Bible to examine us, looking for things God can't accept.   

To be loved but not known is superficial. To be known but not loved is a nightmare. Only Jesus knows us to the bottom and loves us to the sky.   

If Jesus rose from the dead then you have to accept all that he said. If he didn't then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether you like His teaching, but whether he rose from the dead.  

In an era when church growth was about image, popularity, and being relevant, and current, Tim wanted none of this. Production wasn't important to him...the Gospel was most important to him. People didn't listen to him because of what he wore, or because of his dynamic speaking voice, or because the church worship service was popular. They listened because he knew God and wanted to know Him more and more  

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.  

The gospel is that I am so sinful that Jesus had to die for me, yet so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. I can't feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone.  

I pray more often, but I also do it more longingly. And what's really amazing is that when you know you've got to have more God - because there's really no alternative - to our surprise, there is more of God to be gotten.   

God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.  

A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart.  

Thanks for letting me use this email to mourn a person who has influenced me. I realize this isn't what I would normally write about, but I wanted to write something down to remember Tim, and this email gave me a good reason to not put it off.  

This Sunday, we will continue in our series, Masterpiece. We are taking an eight-week journey through the book of Ephesians. This week is about our identity, and if we remember who we are, changes everything! 

Grace & Peace, 

Pastor Tom