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3 Things You Can Learn from Tim Keller about Being a Child of God

  • Liz Kanoy What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • Updated Jun 09, 2020

Editor's Note from

"Tim Keller, a well-known speaker, theologian and author is calling for prayer following his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. 'Less than three weeks ago I didn’t know I had cancer,' Keller wrote on social media. 'Today I’m headed to the National Cancer Institute at the [National Institutes of Health] for additional testing before beginning chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer next week in New York City.' ...Keller also added a fourfold prayer petition for believers to keep in mind at this time."

For those of you who follow Timothy Keller, pastor speaker, and author, you may have heard the news that he will be stepping down as senior pastor from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC [July 1, 2017]. This is part of a decades-long plan, reports for Redeemer, which has three church campuses, to separate into three independent churches. Though he will not be retiring from ministry, Keller’s last day as pastor will be July 1, 2017 (He started the church in 1989).

Keller will be teaching full-time with Reformed Theological Seminary, as well as working with Redeemer’s City to City church planting network. Relevant Magazine also reports that Keller will continue speaking at various church events, including the “Questioning Christianity” series.

It’s inspiring to see pastors like John Piper and Tim Keller who stepped down or are stepping down from their pastorate position to teach the younger generation as well as continuing their outreach in ministry to all generations. They show us that even if we retire from our regular job, there is always work to be done for the glory of God’s kingdom.

If you’re looking for a new job, not happy with your current job, or are thinking about retiring remember that God created men and women to work. Work itself was not a product of the fall. So in whatever way you are capable and able, look for ways to participate in ministry or help out in your community whether through a new job position or volunteering.

But in order to do work for God’s kingdom, we have to know who we are in God. What does it mean to be a child of God? Keller points out 7 breathtaking privileges of being a child of God in this article, reprinted from The Good Book Company.  Here are 3 of those privileges shared by Tim Keller:

1. Believers have the privilege of intimacy.

“By him we cry, ‘Abba’” (Rom. 8:15b). We need to know the original language here. “Abba” was an Aramaic term which is best translated “Daddy”—a term of the greatest intimacy. A child does not always (or even often) address his father as “Father”; likely, he has a different term for him that shows his loving, trusting familiarity with his father, such as “Dad” or “Papa” or “Daddy.” And this is how Christians can approach the all-powerful Creator of the universe, who sustains every atom in existence moment by moment!

2. Believers have the privilege of assurance.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). When we cry out to God as “Abba,” the Spirit of God somehow comes alongside us (“with our spirit”) and gives us assurance that we truly are in God’s family. There is a lot of debate about the nature of this “testimony,” but it appears to be an inner witness in the heart, a sense that yes, he really loves me.

Notice, Paul says our spirit is already testifying: “The Spirit … testifies with our spirit.” This means we already have evidence that we are Christians. We know we trust Christ. We have his promises. We see our lives changing and growing. All these pieces of evidence lead our “spirit”—our hearts—to have a measure of confidence that we really are his. But Paul says that the Spirit can come alongside us and, in addition to all we see, “testify.” This seems to refer to a direct testimony of the Spirit in our hearts. This probably is a sense of God’s immediate presence and love that sometimes comes to us (something Paul has already spoken of back in 5:5). We don’t get this all the time, or even often; and it may not be a very strong feeling. But there will be times when, as we cry out to Abba, we find ourselves deeply assured that he really is our Abba. That is the Spirit’s work, testifying for us and to us that we truly are sons of the living God.

3. Believers have the privilege of inheritance.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs” (Rom. 8:17). This means we have an incredible future. In more ancient times, the first son was the heir. There may have been many children, and all were loved, but the heir got the largest share of the wealth and carried on the family name. This was the way a great family kept its influence intact and did not have it divided and dissipated. (Paul’s reference should not be read as either supporting or rejecting this practice. It is simply illustrative.) Now, in a breathtaking turn, he calls all Christians “heirs of God.” This is a miracle, of course, because the heir got the lion’s share of the parent’s wealth. Paul is saying that what is in store for us is so grand and glorious that it will be, and will feel, as though we each had alone gotten most of the glory of God.

To read all 7 privileges please click here to read the full article on

Christians have an intimacy with God that is granted only to those who believe; this intimacy is never turned on and off. We have the privilege of being able to meet with God every day, to call Him by name, and ask for His guidance. As Christians we are assured in our faith that once Christ is in our lives, He is in our lives forever. This intimacy, assurance, and inheritance are not won by merit or any effort of good works—but it is the gift of God that those who believe become part of the family of God. Every moment of this life has been given to us through grace. When we know who we are as children of God, we can work for God’s kingdom until He takes us home.

The psalmist in Psalm 71, most likely King David, wrote,

“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?” (Ps. 71:17-19).

The NIV Study Bible edited by D.A. Carson tells us this about Psalm 71,

“The psalmist knows that it was critical that the faith be passed down through the generations. God told the Israelites to teach their children of him at any time of day or night (Deut. 6:7), and he stressed that each generation needed to enter into the covenant anew (Deut 5:2-3; 29:14-15; Josh 24:25-27). It was not enough to be born an Israelite; each generation had to appropriate the faith for themselves, and it was the responsibility of the entire community to proclaim the faith boldly and to pass it down: parents, priests, and even the king (as here).”

In whatever way God has placed people in your life, whether it’s through teaching, preaching, parenting, governing, or just being in relationships you can proclaim the goodness and truth of God’s Word and the amazing privilege of being a child of God. 

Related articles:
7 Breathtaking Privileges of Being a Child of God
Tim Keller's 5 Steps for Effective Prayer
What You Need to Know about the Character of Jesus
Rethinking Retirement

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Publication date: February 27, 2017

Liz Kanoy is an editor for