For Soma School, I had to read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. I had put off reading this book for awhile because I’ve heard Tim talk on it at a conference and we even showed the video sermon at Revolution. I shouldn’t have done that. The book was amazing, so much more than the talk and the video, even though the video sermon is awesome.
If you aren’t familiar, Keller covers the story of what is typically called the prodigal son in Luke 15, but he definitely takes a different angle on it to show how we often miss the gospel and miss the heart of God.
The book essentially is about how everyone, Christian or not needs the gospel, they just need it for different reasons.
Right now, if you are a Christian and aren’t familiar with Keller, you may be thinking, “But I’m a Christian, what do I need the gospel for?” The gospel according to Keller is not “The A, B, C’s of Christianity, but the A to Z of Christianity.” The gospel is not just about getting to heaven or the means to heaven, it is that, but it is so much more as this book shows.
According to Keller, “One of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do.”
What Keller does in this book is show how many people try to get right with God or find fulfillment in life, and yet miss God and what he wants to do in their lives. The one, the younger brother, tried to find happiness and God in self-discovery, while the older brothers tried to find God and happiness in moral conformity, his righteousness.
Reading the book was a convicting time for me as I saw a lot of the elder brother in my heart. Keller talks about how the gospel for elder brothers will be something they have to continually come back to because our default process of living will be self-righteousness, to earn God’s love.
What Keller lays out is that the younger brother sins in the way most people think about sin. He humiliates his family, lives a self-indulgent, dissolute life. The elder brother sins differently. Keller says, “He 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.”
Often, elder brothers will live a moral, righteous life in order to gain favor in God’s eyes. The thinking goes, “If I’m holy, attend church, give, serve, pray, read my Bible, God will have to bless me.” When we live like that, we miss God because “we become our own Savior, we don’t need Jesus to be that.” If that just hit you like it did me, you should read this book and allow the gospel to break your elder brother heart.
The gospel says, “Everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.”
If you have heard this talk by Keller, you should read this book. The book was so rich and challenging. I can’t recommend this book enough if you want to get a better picture of the gospel and your need for it, regardless of where you stand with God.