I purchased Tim Keller's new book, The Prodigal God, which is based upon what is normally referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. Keller uses the term "prodigal" as an adjective to describe God because the word means (1.) recklessly extravagant and (2.) having spent everything.
I am two-thirds through the book. Recently I made a statement to my wife that it had been far too long since I had heard a sermon or read anything that simply gripped my heart. I hear and read good stuff, but sense little if any anointing of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit's conviction.
Not so any longer. Yesterday as I read Keller's book, I found myself leaving my favorite coffee shop to find a place of privacy for meditation. For the first time in a long time, the tears were not tears of grief. They were tears of joy for what God was doing in my heart through this wonderful book.
I have read other blogs that comment on this book. The ones I have read seem to quote the same quote regarding the church. That isn't what captured me. I was captured by Keller's exposition of the elder brother. Too often, I have had similar attitudes. God is gracious to allow one to see himself/herself in the pages of Scripture.
The stocks continue to tank. The election of Obama has not halted the global slide. Pessimism and fear are prevailing attitudes.
I am reading through the "sin lists" of the New Testament. In Romans 1 the wrath of God is revealed against all the godlessness of human beings who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. God has revealed himself and people suppress the truth by their wickedness. Three times in the remainder of the chapter it is said that "God gave them over to their sinful desires".
This chapter discusses sexual sin. But in the downward progression of wickedness that suppresses the truth of God, Romans 1:29-32 also includes envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanders, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventing ways of doing evil, disobedience to parents, no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy, and they continue to do all of these knowing God's righteous decree and even approve others who practice the same. These are discussed in the same context as sexual sin and perversion.
The saddest of all is that God Himself gives people over to their favorite brand of sin when they suppress His truth. Romans 2:1 tells us we have no excuse when we judge others because in so doing, we are condemning ourselves. Now that is sobering.
Keller points out that lostness can be the extreme of the younger son who demonstrated his rebellion against the Father through his own desire for self-discovery or that of the older son who demonstrated his rebellion against the Father through a moral conformity that tried to control the Father. Either way, neither of the sons knew the Father's heart.
The root sin in Romans 1 is the suppression of God's revelation (truth) of Himself which leads to exchanging his truth for a lie. When one does that, one begins to live a lie.
Dependence upon the creations of man will not allow one to thrive when others are trying to survive. I have no crystal ball. I do not know what the stock market will continue to do nor do I know what the next four years of an Obama presidency will bring. But I know this. So long as the people of God trust their own devices and creations, we suppress the truth of God in our unrighteousness and God will give us over to our own desires. And they will destroy the very things we built.
Do you have an elder brother spirit? Keller characterizes the spirit of the elder brother as (1.) being angry and bitter when life doesn't go as you want; (2.) one who has a strong sense of his own moral superiority; (3.) one who has a joyless, fear-based obedience; and (4.) a lack of assurance of the Father's love.
To fully grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is to grasp the love and acceptance of God in Christ and to live one's life out of the perspective of grace. Paul gave a laundry list of sinners in 1 Cor. 6:9-10. He then says "And this what some of you were" (1 Cor. 6:11). These were people who knew they needed grace and they not only received His grace in Christ, but lived out of that relationship. Little wonder the Apostle almost blurted out (Gal. 6:14), "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...".
God's grace and God's kingdom are more than reciting a prayer that gets you "in". In fact, if that is all one has done, that one may not even be "in". Far too often ministry is more about ourselves than God.
Are religious institutions created for God? Or are they created for ourselves?
I once heard Leighton Ford tell of meeting Mother Teresa. He observed her ministry among the diseased and dying in the poorest district of Calcutta, India. He asked her, "How do you do it?" Mother Teresa replied, "We do our work with Christ, for Christ, and to Christ."
When this becomes the heart motive of we who profess Christ, I believe we will experience one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history.
P.S. added: Regarding the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, Mart De Haan has an excellent post here.