Length: 177 pgs
Author: Tim Keller
Tim Keller wrote his first book in 1989, Ministries of Mercy. He didn’t publish another title for nearly 20 years; it seems he was saving up. The Reason for God and The Prodigal God were published in 2008, Counterfeit Gods in 2009, and finally this October, Generous Justice is scheduled to release. I think I once heard Keller explain the silent years saying he feels he is much better oral than written communicator. Certainly he is a gifted speaker, but his writing disproves any supposed inadequacies’ Keller may feel he has. Ministers buy Ministries of Mercy, and Christians, buy everything else he has written. It seems God in His providence used those two silent decades build power and pressure, preparing for an anointed eruption. These are earth-shaking, paradigm-shifting, truth-saturated books.
Counterfeit Gods deals with sin at the fundamental level, idolatry. Luther said that if we keep the first commandment we break none of the others. Sin is the failure to love God with all. We do not live in a polytheistic world where we divvy up our hearts and service among the gods. God gets all. And when he doesn’t, idolatry is afoot in our hearts. This book will help you see, root out, and fight against your idolatry.
There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience career reversal, you find comfort in your family to get through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing.
We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the best things in life.
Many, if not most, of these counterfeit gods can remain in our lives once we have “demoted” them below God.
If you want God’s grace all you need is need, all you need is nothing.
Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced. If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be supplanted. By what? By God himself, of course.
Rejoicing and repentance must go together. … [W]hen we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us from sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s [sic] costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.