Last summer Tim Keller came to my home church in Memphis. I was in town, but getting over being sick and did not go. I ended up getting the tape of it, and he preached on Philippians 4:4-13. It was a message that at that time was very timely for me to hear. I ran across my notes from it the other day and thought I’d share some of the things he shared:

“There’s a difference between a morally restrained heart, a heart that has its impulses and its emotions tamped down, controlled from the outside by will power, and a supernaturally, gospel-changed heart, a heart that’s got its dispositions, feelings, orientations and attitudes changed from inside, long-term, permanently by the gospel.”

Keller said that there are 9 traits of a supernaturally-changed, gospel-changed heart; those are the fruit of the Spirit that are found in Galatians 5:22-23.

His quote resonated with me because it’s easy to have a life managed by will power and think then that everything is right in life, but when a supernatural change comes that is fueled by the gospel and the Spirit, even if things look similar to the outside world, the change is absolutely incredible. And to those who really know you, the difference will be obvious.

I know this from experience – trying so hard to live well, perfectly, yet so unhappy, and not realizing I was missing something called the Spirit-filled life and joy. Not that I now have things perfectly in order (I hardly have anything in order these days!), but there has been a fundamental change that only the Spirit could produce. Reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14.

Keller went on then to talk about peace from Phil. 4:4-13 and what we are to think about. He described the character of peace–what it is. It is a deep, inner equilibrium, deep contentment in all circumstances, a tranquility, a lack of anxiety. The apostle Paul’s life was an example of one of peace in spite of torture, imprisonment, death.

Keller said there are many books on stress that talk about emptying the mind of negative thoughts – “just stop those thoughts” and “just don’t think about it” – and how calm in our culture means emptiness.

But the peace that Scripture teaches is not the absence of thoughts, but the presence of a Living Power. You can lay down and sleep knowing you have soldiers encamped about you. You have something greater than what’s wrong.

There was much more to his sermon (disciplines to develop peace, how the gospel produces peace, etc.), but these particular thoughts above really ministered to me, so I thought I would capture them here.


We heard a portion of a Tim Keller sermon at a church seminar this last Sunday, and he talked about our idols, which can be our identity, security, power, etc. Keller said that an idol is a false, pseudo-salvific treasure, and that every treasure other than God enslaves us. Those idols demand that we do anything to get them. But Jesus is the One treasure who died to purchase us. This makes Him our ultimate treasure when we understand that we are His ultimate treasure.

Keller’s talk has had me thinking more about my “idols.” I like to think I don’t have any, that maybe I’ve struggled with things in the past, but I’ve progressed to the point that those things are done away with! Ha! I really think that they may be something that will regularly creep up upon us and that we will have to deal with over and over again in our lives. But as we learn more about who God is and as He becomes our all, we might move more quickly past those struggles as we speak His truth and refuse to wallow there in them.

I looked up the word “idol” (yes,!) and a couple of the definitions struck me:

  • a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom
  • a figment of the mind; fantasy.

I’ve been pondering James 1:17 the last couple of weeks, about there being no variation or shifting shadow with our heavenly Father. I’ve also been pondering Romans 12:2 about being transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we can prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Both those verses make me think of something solid, unchanging, perfect, good — just the opposite of an idol that has no substance, is a figment of the mind, a phantom!

One other thing I’ve been wondering about: do you think idols are born out of our losses and wounds? Where we have been hurt or feel a wound, we seek to fill it with something. And when it’s not God, it is an idol, something that can’t ever fill that need or void, but can give the image that it does. We rob ourselves of all God can do to fill those places and free us when we seek other things to do so.

I’ve been personally struggling this week with one of those old losses that resulted in an empty place that God has more than filled. But lies often come to tell me something false, and I need to go back to square one all over again. Praise Him that He is more than faithful to expose those false ways of thinking and place me again on a firm foundation.

Psalm 95:6-7
“Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”