Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lost Sons, Prodigal God

And [Jesus] said, "There was a man who had two sons..."
Luke 15:11
Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant (Philippians 2). He laid aside the infinities and immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life, paid the debt of our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father's house.

Knowing he did this will transform us from the inside out...Why wouldn't you want to offer yourself to someone like this? Selfless love destroys the mistrust in our hearts toward God that makes us either younger brothers or elder brothers.

John Newton, the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," wrote another hymn that puts this perfectly:

Our pleasure and our duty,
though opposite before,
since we have seen his beauty
are joined to part no more.

In a few short words Newton outlines our dilemma. The choice before us seems to be to either turn from God and pursue the desires of our hearts, like the younger brother, or repress desire and do our moral duty, like the older brother. But the sacrificial, costly love of Jesus on the cross changes that. When we see the beauty of what he has done for us, it attracts our hearts to him. We realize that the love, the greatness, the consolation, and the honor we have been seeking in other things is here. The beauty also eliminates our fear. If the Lord of the Universe loves us enough to experience this for us, what are we afraid of? To the degree we "see his beauty" we will be free from the fear and neediness that creates either younger brothers or elder brothers.

John Newton's friend, the poet William Cowper, treats this idea in another hymn:

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
and hear his pardoning voice,
changes a slave into a child
and duty into choice.

We will never stop being younger brothers or elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ.

--Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p.87-89.
The problem with the lost older brother is that he isn't a hedonist. The problem with the lost younger brother is that his hedonism is misdirected. So what's the alternative to being a lost son? There's only one: properly directed hedonism in the prodigal God who pursues us relentlessly at infinite cost to Himself. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

This book is a must read for believers and non-believers.

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