This story begins with a good, right, and true God creating everything beautiful through love, Spirit, and Word. God's intention for earth was that humans, animals, and the rest of the created world would flourish as they lived together in mutual service, harmony, and joy. God made humanity as image-bearers, welcomed them as family, and led them to extend the good reign of heaven throughout the earth in order to bring forth all of creation’s abundant potential through work, play, and rest. Here in the beginning of the story we find our identity and security in knowing whose we are, resting in who we are, and working for the life of the world.
Core question: Where did all this come from? Who am I? How is my identity formed and defined?
Story answer: We belong. The Spirit places us in God's family in God's creation, a secure home built on love, grace, and welcome.
Rather than remaining in loving union with God, and trusting everything good created for them, the first humans made the choice to rebel against God, serving themselves by listening to the lies of the evil one and deciding to manage good and evil on their own terms. This resulted in disunity and brokenness between God, humans, and the rest of the created world. God's creation was no longer a place that expressed the fullness of the justice, shalom, and steadfast love for which it was intended. Rebelling against God’s good intentions, people became isolated and separated, falling further into hatred, violence, and selfishness. Sin entered into God’s good creation like a parasite and began eating away at it. This part of the story acknowledges the problems we see in the world and invites us to consider our part that we play in contributing by what we do or don't do.
Core question: What happened? What problems do I see? Who's to blame?
Story answer: Our misdirected desires for control, consumption, and more can only find fulfillment and completion in God. Thankfully, nothing is lost in the economy of the God who redeems and repurposes our deepest regrets, heals the broken elements of our lives, and fills our emptiness with abundant life.
God in steadfast love did not abandon the original desire for the flourishing of humanity and creation even as sin and death infected everything. God communicated love again and again in words and actions, and made promises called covenants, including a covenant relationship with the family of Abraham who became the nation of Israel. God graciously called this covenant community to live in union with God and each other, and be a blessing to all people and creation as they worked, played, and rested. In calling them to be a holy people, they were set apart to walk with God and be a light to all nations in all their ways. However, they failed to embody God's heart for the world and rebelled. But in keeping every promise given to them, God rescued them again and again. And even as generation after generation attempted to manage good and evil on their own terms, some people turned back to God through the witness of prophetic voices in different times and places, hoping for the day when salvation would come through a promised Servant King, a Messiah in the lineage of King David, who would reconcile God’s family, rescue Israel, redeem all nations, and restore all of creation. This moment in the story reveals how a community can be empowered to be more than what the world sees through holding to the promises of God in all of life's ups and downs.
Core question: How do I find a people to belong to, to trust?
Story answer: A sense of lostness is dealt with by being found. God sees us, rescues us, saves us. God is relentless with compassion in bringing us back together.
God in steadfast love provides the answer to all the covenant promises to humanity and Israel in Jesus, the Word become human, filled with the Spirit, and the first seed of new creation that restores. In Jesus, all things are held together and transformed. Jesus embodied God's grace, justice, righteousness, and salvation; in Him, we see the fullness of what God intended for humanity in relation to His creation. As both fully divine and fully human, Jesus lived in perfect harmony with God, humanity, and creation throughout His entire life on earth. He worked, played, and rested for the glory of God and for the life of the world. And He was the Messiah, God’s promised King and suffering servant, who would atone for sin, reconcile God with His family of people from Israel and all nations, and extend God's rule of joy and justice to the ends of the earth. But if Jesus was the only One to save, that meant the other powers on earth weren’t. So the political, cultural, and religious powers of humanity killed Jesus on a cross as He willingly bore the sins of the world. However, three days later, He conquered sin and death through His resurrection, and God's Kingdom reign began to be made known throughout the earth. The long awaited restoration was breaking in for all who believe! This is the crux of the story: we are looking for someone or something to save us and redeem the world. But instead of needing to perform or prove ourselves worthy, God comes in Jesus to rescue us.
Core question: Who or what will save me, others, and the world? Can it change? Will good overcome evil?
Story answer: A rebellious posture and fragmented identity is transformed by the gift of knowing who we truly are in Christ. God loves us and has done everything to save us through Jesus.
Psalm 111:9; Philippians 2:8-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 2 Corinthians 1:19-20; Hebrews 9:15; Romans 10:11-13; John 1:29; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 2:14-15; Mark 10:45; Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Peter 2:24; John 3:16-17; Colossians 1:12-17; Colossians 2:13-15
With Jesus as our Savior, Healer, Redeemer, and King, we are invited to turn to Him and His completed covenant promises of forgiveness and restored union with God, one another, and creation. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of heaven and reconciles us to be God's covenant community - the Church, ambassadors of His Kingdom of joy, mercy, and justice - sent into the world to bless all nations with humility and hope. This history-altering, world-restoring, and life-transforming Good News is to be shared and showed throughout the whole earth. As we continue to live by Jesus' ways through the refreshing gift of the Holy Spirit, our lives, work, play, and rest are transformed. This is our place in the story now. Together, we get to abundantly live, loving our neighbors and the world as a preview, a foretaste of new creation that has already dawned and will soon be fully revealed when Jesus returns and fully reconciles heaven and earth. With Jesus, our Immanuel, God with us, we see the continued fulfillment of who we are meant to be in caring for and cultivating the world as humans were created to do from the beginning.
Core question: How do I approach my work, calling, and purpose?
Story answer: Our human capacity to be enslaved through addiction and misdirected passion is addressed by the freedom Jesus gives to us through God's Spirit. A life overcome with boredom, lack of meaning, and despair is reinvigorated by being commissioned into a movement with people of every background and ethnicity that is destined to heal a broken and hurting world.
King Jesus will return one day to fully reconcile God with man, and heaven with earth. Everything will be good, right, true, and full of abundant beauty. Jesus will fully usher in God’s Kingdom of joy and justice. And He will remove all the sin, evil, and brokenness along with any who seek to counter His good and just reign because managing good and evil on their own terms was what enslaved, corrupted, and eroded the world in the first place. God will heal the world and the nations, and we will live together as Jesus' multiethnic and multicultural family in mutual harmony, service, and community. We will get to freely love God, each other, and creation, and we will continue to bring forth the potential of the world through work, play, and rest in the reconciled heaven and earth as we reflect God's goodness, glory, and grace forever.
Core question: What is the end of history? What is ultimately worth placing my hope in?
Story answer: Fear of loneliness and death is annulled through being granted abundant, eternal life that is experienced with God among our friends, neighbors, and family now and forever.
Here are two 5-minute videos to listen to and look at the Story:
Here are examples of reading the Story of God thru the lens of:
And here is a book for reading the Story of God in its context:
+ The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible by Sean Gladding