Everyone loves a good story.
Not only do we enjoy good stories, but whether we realize it or not, our lives revolve around them. Conversations are dominated by stories. Nightly news broadcasts are grouped around stories. Comedians tell stories. Newspapers are filled with stories. Facebook updates and Twitter tweets are, in some way, mini-stories themselves. If there were no stories, then communication, as we know it, would not exist. (I suppose we would just walk around handing spreadsheets to each other to share information. Talk about boring.)
Even though human civilization is shaped in every way by stories, men (even Christian men) have a curious tendency to forget that the most important information ever communicated to us (e.g. the Bible) is, itself, a story. Being inspired, the Bible is a unique, God-given story. But, at its core, it is still a story nonetheless.
Too often the Bible is read like…
…a collection of random laws, songs, biographies, and teachings rather than being read as one, singular story. True, the Bible does contain all of these elements but it is not a disorganized flea-market of random religious ideas. When we read the Bible with this kind of fragmented perspective we are in danger of limiting the Bible. We end up reading the Bible only to find verses that back up our political views, theological opinions, or personal agendas. This can be dangerous.
The Bible is not a list of rules. It is not a systematic theology textbook. It is not the playbook for the Republican party. It is not even the answer guide to all of life’s questions. It is the God-breathed story of the Lord’s grand redemptive, Christ-centered plan for the entire universe. Itshould be read and appreciated that way.
This story starts “In the beginning…” when God created all things perfectly. But not long after, all of creation was plunged into darkness because of Adam’s fall. Not only did mankind fall into sin, but the entire universe itself, planets, stars, trees, and animals all came under the weight and effects of sin. Currently, “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth” waiting for our final, glorious redemption (Rom 8:22). But how can all of this corruption be made new. The answer? It is only through the cross of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection not only are believing men and women made new creatures (eventually to be restored to our pre-fallen condition), but, one day, all the trees, rocks, meteors, and stars will be made new as well. This same story, which began in Genesis 1:1, ends with Revelation 21:1 where John says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth”. In other words, God’s giant plan of redeeming mankind and mankind’s environment (which was fully accomplished in Jesus Christ) will become a reality one day. The end of history has already been written. What remains to be written is how you and I will work and live towards that end.
The problem is that too many of us live our lives for “small potatoes”. We not only live paycheck to paycheck, but we live moment to moment. We are consumed with daily, menial things like emails, doctor’s appointments, project deadlines, cleaning toilets, going to the dry cleaners, and making dinner. Now, don’t misunderstand me, We all must (and should) do these things. But we need to do them with one eye always looking towards our eternal redemption. Somehow, that casserole you make and that email you reply to, fits into God’s grand, eternal plan. We should live and care about things today in light of how we will live and care about those things in eternity.
If we find ourselves missing God’s big picture, what we need to do is to take a step back and gain a wide-angle perspective on Genesis through Revelation. To help me personally do this, I’ve embarked, once again during my devotions, on the quest to read through the Bible from cover to cover. Will you join me in this? There is only great benefit for those who do.
When we do this, we will quickly see that the story of the Bible is not just God’s story but that it is also our story. Then, and only then, can we truly live our lives in such a way that it reflects and even contributes to the grand redemptive plan. Like individual creeks flowing into a mighty river, each believer’s life should be directed towards the much larger unstoppable purpose of God in this universe.
God will redeem all of creation one day. God will gather men and women from every tribe and tongue one day. God will bring about the ultimate praise and worship of Jesus Christ one day. The question is: are you doing those things today? Is that grand, God-given story of the future shaping your life in the present?
The Nigerian author, Ben Okri once said,
“The greatest stories are those that resonate our beginnings and intuit our endings…and dissolve them both into one.”
That is precisely why the Bible is the greatest story ever told. This is also why it needs to be the greatest story told over and over again. Our God is a God of redemption and His story (or history) is a story of redemption. As we rightly and properly read the Bible as God intended, we not only discover God and what He is doing in this world, but we will even discover ourselves and what we should be doing in this world as well.
To learn more about God’s grand story, consider reading The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. Check it out of our church library today or ask it for Christmas.