Some books become popular quickly and all of a sudden it seems that everyone has read them. This was one of them a few years ago.
Using the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, Keller challenges us to see the parable afresh. In it we meet 2 brothers – one (usually referred to as the prodigal) is the one we are most familiar with, the spendthrift, licentious younger brother. However, Keller wants us to see also the older brother, the rule-keeper, yet joyless one who keeps his fathers commands but with no desire to serve. Keller shows that both of these types of ‘brothers’ exist in the world today, and both need God as badly as the other. One needs to repent of his sinful lifestyle and see the forgiveness that God offers, and the other needs to repent of his moral conformity as a way to control God and see the costliness of God’s grace towards him.
Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life. (p43)
There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good. (p44)
Keller then shows the free and yet costly grace the Father gives us in forgiving us, and that the true elder brother we really have is Jesus.
This is an easy to read, short and very helpful book, which will help you to see which way you tend, perhaps towards the younger brother with his journey of self-discovery or the other way, towards the older brother with his moral conformity. It would also be a great book for unbelievers, especially those with a church background, who know of the parable of the prodigal son, yet have moved away from churches, put off by the more ‘older brother’ nature of its members.