Just read a great little book called Prodigal God by Tim Keller. I loved it. In the book, Mr Keller dissects the parable of the prodigal son in a way that really gets to the heart of grace.
1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually followed by of or with ): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.
Mr Keller goes on to show that not only was the son prodigal in that he blew all his inheritance in reckless living, but that the father is just as prodigal in lavishing gifts and restoration to his younger son upon his return. He also tries with all his might to do the same for the stubborn elder son who is angry when the younger returns.
Here is a picture of how God comes down to us, to recklessly, lavishly give to us what we don’t deserve, His unconditional love and mercy.
Here is just a taste of some thought provoking quotes from the book.
Here, then, is Jesus’s radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.
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.
Jesus does not divide the world into the moral “good guys” and the immoral “bad guys.” He shows us that everyone is dedicated to a project of self-salvation, to using God and others in order to get power and control for themselves. We are just going about it in different ways.
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 poles — it is something else altogether. The gospel is distinct from the two approaches: in it’s view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.
He (Jesus) is not a Pharisee about Pharisees; he is not self-righteous about self-righteousness. Nor should we be. He not only loves the wild-living, free-spirited people, but also hardened religious people.
We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness — the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord.
If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that now we need to add hard work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.
If you want a better understanding of how awesome God is, how He never gives up on us, I highly recommend this little book.