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 GOD'S ATTITUDE
   
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Book: The Prodigal God
by Timothy Keller

 

Timothy Keller's book is an examination of the meaning of the parable in Luke 15, known as the "Prodigal Son."  He shows that the parable is really about two lost sons; one who squanders this wealth in riotous living and immorality and the other son who remains obedient, dutiful and respectable.  Both sons were lost in their own way.  The parable is more accurately named, "The Two Lost Sons."  The parable is also very much a story about a loving and merciful father.  He is the God of "great expenditure."
 

Jesus tells this story in response to Jewish leaders (Pharisees and teachers of the law) who complained that he was associating with sinners and immoral people.  Jesus is addressing this audience of people who are self-satisfied about their own relationship to God and who are quick to condemn others (tax-collectors and other Jews who did not follow Jewish law). 
 

This book is especially written for church people and other religious people who think that they have earned God's favor by what they have done.  Keller intends that his book address both church insiders and church outsiders with the essential message of the Christian faith. 
 

Jesus challenged the typical ways that people think about life and religion, sin and salvation. Most people think and most religions teach that people come to God by way of moral reformation.  The younger brother in the parable represents people who have thrown off morality.  They are the immoral people of the world.  The elder brother represents the way of moral reformation.  He obeys the father and doesn't engage in immoral activities and he expects to be rewarded and is quick to condemn his younger brother. 
 

The younger brother and the elder brother represent two ways to find happiness; self-discovery and moral conformity.  The way of self-discovery says, 'I'll decide for myself what's right for me.' The way of moral conformity says, 'I will find happiness by doing what is right.' Both sons were lost and estranged from their father.  Both resented the father's authority.  The elder brother represents the person who believes that God owes him because he follows the rules.  This person thinks he had gained leverage with God because of what he had done.  Both brothers were seeking what they desired and not the father's love.  They were both involved in a project of self salvation. 
 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is completely different.  His message is unique among all the religions and philosophies of the world.  His way of salvation is radical and goes to the root cause of our lost condition, namely, our sin that separates us from God.  It is so radical it is called a new birth and a new creation. 
 

How does Jesus do this?  He does this by rescuing us.  The parable is missing a true elder brother who would go after the younger brother.  The elder brother we need to rescue us is Jesus Christ.  He is the true elder brother who comes from heaven and is willing to pay an infinite cost for our redemption.  It is Jesus' selfless love that turns us from our rebellion whether it is self-indulgence or self-righteousness. 
 

The parable does not end with our salvation.  Jesus opens up the theme of our homecoming from exile.  Jesus brings us to our eternal homecoming that will fulfill all our longings and bring us into the home of our Father.  


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