I love telling stories. Stories capture the imagination much more than statements of doctrine or long, leather-bound doctrinal books. When you tell a story, you are not just speaking to people, you are asking them to step into a time and place with you. One of my favorite stories of all time is the biblical narrative from creation to recreation as told in the Bible in six acts. I believe this biblical story with such conviction that I got the imagery of the six acts tattooed on my arm. Now I can share it with my pre-Christian golf buddies in under a minute. I’d encourage you to be able to share this story with others the same way when they ask. Here are the six acts:
God created everything you see and don’t see. The Heavens and the earth. The waters, the dry lands, trees bearing fruit, the day and the night, and all living creatures according to their kind. And man and woman in His image. This is found in Genesis 1-2.
Mankind did not passively “fall” into sin. No–we actively rebelled against God’s Law. We did not believe His Word of promise, and we sought to be our own god. Mankind now knew good and evil. Due to sin, death entered into our story. Yet, the story was not over.
God chose a man (Abraham) to raise up a people group (the Israelites), and he gave him a promise: "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse.
Through you, every family on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
From Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, to Joseph…and the story goes down to Egypt. Three hundred years of slavery. God calls Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery to the Promised Land. After many rebellions and wanderings–God’s presence in the temple tent going with them every step of the way, the people enter into the Promised Land. Judges. Kings. Prophets. Exiles. Ups and downs. Yet, God’s promise stands. Until He takes matters into His own hands.
Jesus did what Israel could not do. Jesus is Israel reduced to one person–God in the flesh. Jesus shows and tells us who God is.
Let’s pause for a minute here on Act 4, on Jesus, so I can give you three strategies for understanding the Bible.
Jesus is the center point of all of the Bible. The Bible is true because Jesus is true. Many philosophers and theologians during the last few centuries have assumed that, in order to expound or commend the Christian faith, their task was to “prove” the existence of God– in some way or another–and then to fit Jesus into this picture. This is putting the proverbial “cart before the horse.” John 1:18 puts it like this, “No one has ever seen God. The only begotten God, who is intimately close to the Father–he has brought him to light.” This is extraordinary. John is saying you do not truly know who God is apart from Jesus–the very Word of God made flesh. Jesus is the center point of all of the Bible. More than that, Jesus is the center point of all of life.
Scripture interprets Scripture. You must read the Bible in light of the wider context…in light of the wider story. It is very easy to “cherry-pick” parts of the Bible to make Scripture say what you want it to say. The sixty-six books of the Bible were written for a particular audience and a particular purpose. The twenty-first-century reader was not the primary audience, though the Bible still applies to us. Let me give you an example. Exodus 24:8 tells us that Moses “took the blood of the sacrifices and threw it on the people.” We should not read this text and think we should do the same–slaughter our animals and put blood upon us. Instead, we come to the story with the broader story in mind. Oh, Moses was doing for the Israelites what the blood of Jesus flowing from the cross does for me. Jesus’ blood covers all my sins. This sort of misunderstanding is one of the reasons the book of Hebrews was written. Never forget that Scripture interprets Scripture. In other words, we interpret less clear Scriptures in light of more clear Scriptures. We interpret less clear Scriptures in light of the Grand Biblical Story.
Finally, all of Scripture should be interpreted through Law and Gospel. God gave His Law for three reasons. 1) To CURB sin so that creation is held together even through mankind’s rebellion. 2) As a MIRROR to show us our sin and need for a Savior. 3) To GUIDE us to become more like Jesus by the Spirit’s power. Primarily, the Law leads us to the Gospel. Namely, to the Gospel in the flesh–Jesus and His saving work for all of us as a free gift!
Back to the story. Jesus lived a perfect life to fulfill the demands of the Law, died our death on the cross to cover our sins, and rose from the dead to give us hope beyond the grave. By grace through faith, the Father sees the perfect work of Jesus in our place.
This represents the age in which we live. This is our part of the story. We’re called to make Jesus known as He’s revealed Himself to us in His Word and Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.) We get to take part in the Kingdom of God, bringing light to places of overt and covert darkness. It is the most incredible privilege of all time. Oh, and everyone gets to play. This mission to make Jesus known is not just for pastors or called leaders. We’re actually called to equip you, the priesthood of all believers, to take the story of Jesus to the world in our various vocations. It’s a great time to be a part of Act 5! Why? Because the Last Act is quickly approaching!
Some call this act "Restoration," but we like "Re-creation" slightly better. Restoration implies that creation is simply in need of a touch-up. No–we require a complete restart. Jesus is going to come back to make all things new. He will raise the dead and give them brand new, imperishable, powerful, eternal bodies. What happened to Jesus will happen to us. We will rise to eternal life on a re-created earth.
All of our funeral services end with this vision from John: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21: 2-5).
And that…from creation to recreation…is the greatest story of all time. Feel free to share it!