I remember being taken back by his request. As we sat down to spend some time together, a colleague and friend said, “Steve, tell me your story.” “What story?”, I responded. “Your story”, he replied, “Let’s start with where you were born and brought up and then just go on from there.” “How much time do you have?”, I asked. “Why don’t we start with an hour”, he responded.
I don’t think I’ve ever told “my story” like this before. Frankly, it’s very rare to find someone who sincerely wants to hear someone else’s story in great detail. I guess that’s because we’re all so naturally self-centered. As I told “my story” I realized it was made up of a succession of smaller stories. Some of the stories were happy. Some were very sad. My friend was even moved to tears during one of my stories.
At another time, later, I reciprocated and heard his story. The result was that we came to know each other at a much deeper level than before. That’s because you can’t really know someone without first knowing their story. The same is true about God. The only way to really know God is to know his story. And the bible is a record of that story.
Even though the bible contains hundreds of stories it has only one overarching story. And even though the bible contains sixty-six books it has only one overarching message. If you’re not careful you can know a lot of the stories of the bible and miss the story. And if you’re not careful you can also know a lot of the messages of the bible and miss the message.
What’s interesting is that the central message of the bible, the gospel, comes to us primarily by means of stories found in the bible. So the gospel is best understood as a story or a drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. This one story unfolds throughout the bible like a four-act dramatic play.
ACT 1 CREATION: The first act, creation, sets the stage for us and introduces us to the main characters and context.
ACT 2 FALL: In the second act, the fall, evil enters the story resulting in a cosmic conflict with horrible consequences.
ACT 3 REDEMPTION: In the third act, redemption, we see God’s great acts of redeeming that which was lost in the fall primarily as he works through the people of Israel and culminating in the redemptive life and work of Jesus Christ.
ACT 4 RESTORATION: In the fourth act, restoration, we see God’s final restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil—including humanity and all of creation.
So where do we fit in this story? Today we are living in the third act—redemption. We are living in that unique time between the resurrection of Jesus and the restoration of all things. During this time the kingdom of God has come but it is still coming. So we are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This means we are now called to make our own contribution to this supreme restoration project—which is God’s restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil. This project of “making all things new” will be completed by Jesus at his return. He will finish what he started. In the meantime, we are called to join with the worldwide body of Christ in this mission of God (Plantinga).
While no single definition of the gospel can do it justice, the gospel is nothing less than the good news that God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to restore his fallen creation and to rescue people from all the consequences of sin—including not only salvation from personal guilt but also from heart corruption and even cosmic corruption.
The good news is that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has now invaded this fallen world, and it is bringing with it not only the promise of forgiveness of sins (a new status) but also the promise of a transformed life (a new nature) and eventually a transformed creation (a new world).
Never forget that you are not an accident. Life is a story. It has a beginning and an end. In between there is an unfolding plot in which God means for you to play a significant role in the restoration of all things. You can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.
To read about the first act in the greatest story ever told click here.
A Look Ahead:
In this Introduction to the All Things New series, The Greatest Story Ever Told, we’ve seen how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.
In Act 1 of the All Things New series, The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be, we will learn that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you can never fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.
In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we will learn that because of sin, mankind’s: 1) perfect standing with God was lost (resulting in condemnation, guilt, and separation), 2) mankind’s perfect life with God was lost (resulting in death, captivity, and corruption), and 3) mankind’s perfect world with God was lost (resulting in alienation from God, self, others, and creation).
In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are (The Already), we will learn how God, through the nation of Israel, and the person and work of Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit, graciously provides a redeemed standing, a redeemed life, and a redeemed world.
In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Will Be (The Not Yet), we will catch a life-changing glimpse of the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to mankind of a new standing, a new life, and a new world–as he Makes All Things New.
Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers