Tag Archives: Parable of the Prodigal Son

That Summer of 1981


You also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead. Romans 7:4

I began that summer as the younger brother in Luke’s telling of the prodigal son. Arrogantly self-indulgent, I thought myself autonomous. But looking back, I see that sin ruled the day and I was enslaved to it. I tried in vain to break the cycle of sin and guilt by constructing my own morality. But that just set the cycle spinning over and over again.

I don’t remember the exact moment or the date in time that God’s love broke through to me. But I do know there dawned a revelation in my heart and mind that I had come to the end of myself.

At first, I was like an unruly child sitting on her father’s lap. I fought against him, alternating between fury and fear at the thought that anyone or anything would dare to hold me down. But, the more I struggled, the tighter he held me, and he did not let me fall.

I barely understood what was happening, but I did know this: a thirst for the goodness of God washed over me, and I began to experience a strange new freedom from the sinful desires that had for so long held me captive. For the first time in my life, I caught a glimpse of the beauty of truth and it was very much unlike the fleeting substitutes and lies I had often entertained.

Who was this ridiculously demonstrative, wildly benevolent King of the Universe who would sacrifice His perfect, beloved and only begotten Son for sinners yet sinning, for the ungodly still reveling in their ungodliness? What outrageously extravagant Love was this? And, how could it possibly be that this God (who is bigger and deeper and wider than I could ever have imagined back then) would have any interest in a rebel like me?

I died that summer, but slowly. My will, once so strong, began to melt and mingle with His. My heart, once so hardened, softened and became more malleable. Little by little, I relaxed into His Grace, surrendered to His mercy and yielded to His Love. I came to realize that I belonged to another and not myself.

He became my Abba Father.

That summer of 1981, the fullness of salvation was finally and fully revealed to me in the person of Jesus Christ. God’s Grace did its work and I ceased from mine.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

The Two Lost Sons

Kunsthistorisches Museum

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by Timothy Keller

“…one of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do.”
-Timothy Keller

In his book, The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller unpacks lessons to be learned from the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Keller’s approachable and non-technical style open up the parable and help the reader interpret the story in a way that lays out the essentials of the Gospel message.

Keller suggests that although the parable is most often entitled “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”, it might more aptly be called, “The Parable of the Two Lost Sons.”  In seven short chapters Keller illustrates the prodigal (defined as recklessly extravagant) grace of God as it relates to both the moral bankruptcy of the younger brother and the self-righteous moralism of the elder brother.

Most people can readily see the lost condition of the younger brother, but Keller brings out the fact that the elder brother, relying on his own righteous behavior, is just as lost. He tells us that the world is full of “younger brothers and elder brothers,” people who attempt to find their “salvation” either by rejecting any moral restraints or by living lives of moral uprightness. Both ways end in failure and have dire eternal consequences.

Whether we can identify with the younger brother or the elder, both rebelled against their father as we have rebelled against our Heavenly Father. In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller reminds us that unlike the younger brother in the story, we have been given a true and perfect elder brother in Christ, “one…who will come all the way from heaven to earth…one who is willing to pay not just a finite amount of money, but at the infinite cost of his own life to bring us into God’s family, for our debt is so much greater” (p 94-95).

My favorite part of the book is the last chapter entitled “The Feast of the Father.” Here Keller reminds us that salvation is experiential, material, individual, and communal. These four ideas correspond to the way the Gospel shapes and changes our lives.

I enjoyed this book very much. So much so that although I quickly read through it in 3 sittings the first time, I plan on re-reading it, slowing down and chewing on some of the timeless and glorious truths Timothy Keller draws from in this well-known Bible story. I highly recommend it for unbelievers who might be interested in exploring what Christianity is all about and for believers who will be challenged to re-think the familiar story and how it applies to the Gospel.

The book is thoughtfully written, intelligently laid out, and sets forth the Gospel message in a fresh and relevant way.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

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