What’s the Difference Between Religion and the Gospel?

This week, I listened to the sermon Prodigal Sons by Tim Keller which I highly recommend you to listen as well. I’d love to hear your take-aways!

If you would like to read the bible lesson of the Prodigal son, you can visit Bible hub here to read Luke 15 :11 – 31

In case you’re limited on time, here’s a quick summary. Basically a father’s youngest son comes to him asking for his share of the inheritance.

Tim Keller explains in the culture of that time period it was custom for the oldest to receive a double portion when the father dies. But to ask for your inheritance while the father is alive in that culture was considered “wishing the father was dead already!”

It’s like saying, “I just want my inheritance, and I’m not interested in having a relationship with the father.”

The world’s custom to that type of insult in that day would be to drive the son out of the home with violent blows.

Tim Keller explained that in order for the father to be able to give the youngest son his inheritance early it would have cost the father. He would have had to sell 1/3 of his land. Back then losing a portion of your land was equivalent to losing your prominent standing in the community.

The father in this bible lesson does not act like any earthly father. He endures rejected love. Throughout the lesson, the father maintains his love for the son who rejects him.

After the youngest son hits rock bottom and realizes the hired men at his father’s house are better cared for than his current living situation. He decides to return home and ask to be a hired man. Perhaps he wanted to receive a wage to be able to make restitution.

It was common in those days that restitution was necessary for the apology to be accepted.

Think about it…would an earthly father run to his son and kiss him after enduring the agony of rejected love? The worry of not hearing from him? The financial devastation that the son caused?

But that is exactly what this father did. He hiked up his long robe and ran to his son. He ordered the best robe in the house which was probably his to cover his son.

He didn’t expect his son to earn his way back. Instead the father brought him back into the home without requiring restitution. The father is so joyful that he celebrates by having a party where a calf is prepared for everyone to enjoy!

Seems natural that the older son of the father is upset that the younger brother received a party after what he had done! The older brother had never received an expensive party or even a goat to share with his friends. All the hard work and good works that the older brother had done made him feel like he had the right to receive his father’s attention and belongings.

The father reacted to the older son letting him know that he was still loved and invited to the feast too.

Tim Keller says that Jesus redefined God, Sin, and Salvation in this bible lesson to the Pharisees and the tax collectors.

God was shown as a father, but many did not think of God in this manner.

The young son had insulted the father, lived in self indulgent behavior, and sexual immorality. This behavior depicted traditional sin.

But what about the sin of the older son? He had been good, but still tried to use the father to get what he wanted.

Both of the sons whether they behaved good or bad, are still lost!

The good son was lost because of the motive of his goodness, he began to think he had earned certain rights! How scary to realize that it was his very righteousness that is keeping him from attending his father’s feast.

Tim Keller mentions that Jesus told this bible lesson to Pharisees and Tax collectors.

The Pharisees did what was right, but the tax collectors did what they wanted. But Tim Keller states that the good are not in and the bad out. Instead the humble are in, and the proud are out.

Both the good and bad son are just trying to control the father to get what they think they deserve.

Do you agree that people who do good should be blessed because they are good?

Did you notice that the older brother has an undercurrent of anger because he thinks he deserves the honor of the party?

Think about the reason for your anger, the next time it bubbles to the surface.

This bible lesson makes us stop and think about why we do what we are doing.

Jesus even redefined salvation in this bible lesson. The father goes out to both sons and even kissed the youngest son before he even repented.

When Jesus was telling this bible lesson it offended both the sinners and the religious people.

The son was a sinner but at least he was saved by the father. But how does the good son get saved?

Tim Keller suggests if we are Christians, we should repent of what we do wrong and repent of the reason we’ve done the right things.

Often we do the right things to find comfort, acceptance, and control. Instead we should be doing the right things to find God.

But don’t worry whether you consider yourself bad or good. God loves you!

Repenting is having our heart melted by the enormous cost that Christ paid to bring us home to our Heavenly Father.

Our forgiveness doesn’t cost us anything!

But it cost Jesus Christ to be stripped bare, so we could be clothed.

If you click on the link you will find a chart by Tim Keller that outlines the difference between Religion and the Gospel.

Where do you find yourself on the chart?

Well, I tend to feel like a failure when I’m not living up to standards that either I’ve imposed on myself or by co-workers. And I have to remind myself that I’m accepted in Christ.

I acknowledge the sin in me that caused Christ to be crucified in my place. But then I remember the reason Jesus agreed was because of his love for me and you! The cost He paid makes us humble and confident that we are clothed in his righteousness.

What about you, where do you fall on the chart?


Published by April Jollie

Teacher + Writer = Lessons of Hope for Tough Days, writer to deepen understanding of God's Word and to stay connected to Jesus.

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