The Prodigal – there are always 2 sides to every story, or maybe 3

I’m am literally reading about 8 books right now. Well, not all at the same time. I just have a problem with not finishing one before beginning another. My Bible study leader/mentor, Julie ( of Julie Tate Ministries ) recommended this book and I can not recommend it highly enough. It’s so encouraging and convicting and uplifting. It’s the pure gospel. It’s also a quick read. I could hardly put it down until I did, but now I’m back to it.

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Some more great excerpts: THE PARABLE in question is from LUKE 15: 1-3, 11-32 Based on the New International Version.

*The message of Jesus’s parable is that both of these approaches are wrong. His parable illustrates the radical alternative.

*So we have two sons, one “bad” by conventional standards and one “good,” yet both are alienated from the father. The father has to go out and invite each of them to come into the feast of his love. So there is not just one lost son in this parable— there are two. Jesus the storyteller deliberately leaves the elder brother in his alienated state. The bad son enters the father’s feast but the good son will not. The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost. We can almost hear the Pharisees gasp as the story ends. It was the complete reversal of everything they had ever been taught. Jesus does not simply leave it at that. It gets even more shocking. Why doesn’t the elder brother go in? He himself gives the reason: “Because I’ve never disobeyed you.” The elder brother is not losing the father’s love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father. How could this be? The answer is that the brothers’ hearts, and the two ways of life they represent, are much more alike than they first appear.

*Do you realize, then, what Jesus is teaching? Neither son loved the father for himself. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently. It’s a shocking message: Careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God.

*You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have “rights.” God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.

*If, like the elder brother, you believe that God ought to bless you and help you because you have worked so hard to obey him and be a good person, then Jesus may be your helper, your example, even your inspiration, but he is not your Savior. You are serving as your own Savior. Underneath the brothers’ sharply different patterns of behavior is the same motivation and aim. Both are using the father in different ways to get the things on which their hearts are really fixed.

*If, like the elder brother, you seek to control God through your obedience, then all your morality is just a way to use God to make him give you the things in life you really want.

*Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don’t obey God to get God himself— in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Savior and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don’t believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves.

*sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and judge

*There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good.

*This means that Jesus’s message, which is “the gospel,” is a completely different spirituality. The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles— it is something else altogether. The gospel is distinct from the other two approaches: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. By contrast, elder brothers divide the world in two: “The good people (like us) are in and the bad people, who are the real problem with the world, are out.”

*But Jesus says: “The humble are in and the proud are out” (see Luke 18: 14). 8 The people who confess they aren’t particularly good or open-minded are moving toward God, because the prerequisite for receiving the grace of God is to know you need it.

*Jesus is trying to say that while both forms of the self-salvation project are equally wrong, each one is not equally dangerous.

*Though the older son stayed at home, he was actually more distant and alienated from the father than his brother, because he was blind to his true condition. He would have been horribly offended by the suggestion that he was rebelling against the father’s authority and love, but he was, deeply. Because the elder brother is more blind to what is going on, being an elder-brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition. “How dare you say that?” is how religious people respond if you suggest their relationship with God isn’t right. “I’m there every time the church doors are open.” Jesus says, in effect, “That doesn’t matter.” No one had ever taught anything like this before.

Keller, Timothy (2008-09-25). The Prodigal God. Riverhead Trade.

~Ciao

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About along the journey

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