“Two Sons, one who kept the rules religiously and one who broke them all. One Father who loved both lost sons beyond anything they could have imagined” It sounds like the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster. No, it’s a retelling of an old familiar parable but with a very powerful and challenging twist.
It shouldn’t really be twist at all. However, after years of superficial reading, Tim Keller shows us that many of us have really missed the point of the parable. Often when we study the parable of the two Son’s in the Luke 11 we think of it primarily as a story of grace to a repentant sinner and not a story of judgment against a self saving religious older brother. Tim Keller spells out the context of the story and its liberating message not only to the repentant sinners who know they need saving but also to the religious one who don’t think they do. Although we don’t like to admit it, that includes most of us ‘good’ church going folk! It is the type of story that causes many a Christian to wriggle in their chairs and look again at the prodigal grace of God.
“The Prodigal God” is a study series with DVD by Rev Tim Keller, Minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The DVD curriculum consists of six sessions which correspond to the seven chapters in the book of the same name. It is a very profound book but also a simple read which most people should be handle well. It’s concepts and overall message are very accessible to a typical small group. However it is not “a walk in the park”. Some of the home truths that are revealed in the study are quite confronting, particularly where our hidden religiosity is exposed and bathed in the gospel.
One quote from the book in the chapter ‘redefining sin’.
“Here, then, is Jesus’ 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 misbehavior’s [the elder brother] 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…” (pg. 43)
I led this study in our church throughout Lent and it had great impact, particularly leading up to Easter. Some said it was the most significant Lenten study they had done. The curriculum comes with the six sessions on DVD and a discussion guide. The first session is a 38 minutes sermon by Tim Keller on the passage and all the other studies take snippets from that sermon to discuss in detail. Each participant will need the book (133 pages) to get the most out of the study.
Highly recommended. Should be available from most Christian Book stores – particularly the bigger ones.
Rev Simon Dent