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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Tim Keller: Leader People to the Prodigal God #tls09

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These are some of my notes from the third session of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.

Pastors are suckers for anything that promises spiritual renewal for the church.  The thing that shocks us is the amount of spiritual deadness in our congregations.
A Diagnosis of Spiritual Deadness
  • Parable of the Prodigal Son - Luke 15
  • "Prodigal love for the prodigal Son" sermon by Spurgeon
  • The parable was not really written to younger brother types
  • Two groups of people around Jesus - sinner types, and religious leaders/ Pharisees
  • Jesus then tells 3 parables: Lost Sheep - Lost Coin - Lost Son
  • The parable is for the religious.  But both the older and the younger son are lost and the father has to go out and invite them into the party.
  • The younger son is concerned about the money more than the father.  The elder brother is concerned about the money more than the father.  Both are concerned about the money.  The younger tries to get the money early and run with it.  The elder tries to get the Father's things by living such a good life that he deserves blessing.  There are two ways to be your own savior - one is by being irreligious and one is by being very religious.  The difference is the claim by the older brother that he does love the Father, but underneath is the same reality.
  • Shocking ending:  the good boy is lost... the bad boy is saved.  The good boy is not lost despite his goodness, he his lost because of his goodness.
  • The gospel is not goodness or non-goodness, morality or immorality.  It is something much bigger.
  • Elder brothers are obeying God to get things.  They are using God as a means to an end.
  • Gospel believers believe God to get more of God.
The source of spiritual deadness: elder brothers, because they are trying to make God through their being good and righteous believe they are getting leverage over God and think they have a righteousness over others, have a gospel that is based on performance.
  • Elder brothers get very angry, furious when things don't go well with their lives.
  • When elder brothers get criticized, they respond with viscious protection/ defensiveness or they respond with complete devastation.
  • Elder brothers pray mostly petitionary prayers, and when thing sare going bad you pray a lot.  Elder brothers rarely just enjoy God, adore him, and contemplate him.
  • It's impossible for elder brothers to not be primarily doctrinal people, and will loathe those who don't agree with them.
  • Elder brothers can't forgive and remain with ongoing bitterness because they feel superior to others.
  • Elder brothers are merciless in condemning others.
A Prescription for Spiritual Renewal That's Not Too Programmatic or too Vague
A new level of repentance
  • Not just repentance for your wrong-doing, but repentance for the reasons for your right-doing
  • Until you can understand the reasons for your right-doing, then you aren't truly repentant.  What are the motivations for your right-doing?  Do you belive that you are doing God a favor?
  • It's typical to read the story of the prodigal son and ask "what is the moral of the story?"  To which we answer, "Repent of wrong-doing and come back to the Father." However, we need to be moved by what it cost to bring back the prodigal son.  It was at the expense of the elder brother that the son was brought back.  The other half had been lost!  For every 2 fatted calves, for every signet ring, there were now only 1.  A true older brother would've gone and gotten his younger brother back.
  • The Father can only bring the younger brother back in at the expense of the older brother.  What kind of older brother do we need.  We have an older brother who has sacrificed to let us come back home.  Look what it cost our true older brother.
  • Church/ spiritual renewal
A new level of rejoicing
5 Things about Getting this Biblically Repentance and Rejoicing more Deeply Into Our People's Hearts
  1. You the leader need to work the Gospel into your heart.  (Stop trying to save yourself through your ministry).
  2. All of your preaching must be gospel centered.  If you're a preacher or a teacher, always move beyond biblical principles to the gospel.
  3. Get leaders together, and take them through the book Prodigal God.
  4. Work it into your congregation the slow way (through the leaders on their own spreading) or do the whole church at once.
  5. Pay attention to what happens.  Notice that you'll start to have disagreements and you'll You'll see religious people coming to you because they realize they are not Christians.

"The Gospel is not religion or irreligion but something else."


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