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Returning the the Gospel {A Book Review of The Prodigal God}

Gospel. It’s a word that get thrown about quite a bit, especially in the Christian circles I have been immersed in all my life. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. Good news. Foundation for the doctrines of Christianity. Gospel. As common a word as any.

And in the commonness it has become commonplace. The frequency of use has fractured the usefulness. We know the Gospel. We’ve been hearing it since birth. And in its repetitions the supernatural becomes second nature.

This is why the New York Times bestseller author Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God is worth our attention. I picked it up at a library book sale this summer after hearing the title and author tossed around all through my time at a private Christian college. IMG_2588IMG_2589IMG_2591

In a concise and straightforward fashion, Keller presents the parable of the “Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15. Only a few weeks ago I sat in front of my fireplace with a friend and we talked about the frustrations found in this parable – particularly the resentment we can easily fall into as lifelong Christians who have had no overt wandering period. “It doesn’t seem fair,” she voiced. “There was the younger brother, taking the portion of the older brother’s inheritance. Getting attention, getting lavished with gifts. And the older brother never got anything.”

I’ve heard this complaint before. Growing up in the church I’ve encountered many people who have done all they could to do what Jesus told them to – and resent their wandering siblings who come back in and get it all. Timothy Keller was familiar with this perspective also, and – with grace and truth – reminds us all of our need for the radical love and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.

“Our problems arise largely because we don’t continually return to the gospel to work it in and live it out. That is why Martin Luther wrote, ‘The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine … most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.’”

Whether we’ve wandered or whether we’ve followed the teachings of Christ to a ‘T” we all desperately need to immerse ourselves with the gospel. Again and again. We’ve got to leave behind our biases and misconceptions. We’ve got be willing to open our hearts up to examination, to let Christ in and be reminded of His truth. The gospel is not just good news to the wandering sinner. It is good news to the following sinner.

The Prodigal God is a tool that we can use to hear again the beauty of the Gospel and be presented with the opportunity to understand more fully the love of God and our call to follow Him wholeheartedly.

{For more resources on this subject I would recommend The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen or The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney. Another book by Timothy Keller worth reading  is The Meaning of Marriage and I am looking forward to reading his newest release Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.}

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