What's Your Story?
“Story has an unquestionably become the dominant means of understanding our world, ourselves, and each other. When neighbors and strangers meet today, they often ask not, ‘What do you do?’ but ‘What is your story?” - Leslie Leyland Fields
“The world does not revolve around you” – Anonymous. (and hopefully some point your mother)
Story | How we understand our world
We take our individual stores and make them the lens we see history and world events we get quickly frustrated as we recognize rightly our individual stories are too “small” to explain everything. We search, or are served, bigger stories to be a part of to give us meaning, identity, and purpose. Some we know are silly like becoming fans of sports teams, bands, movies, or genres of popular culture. Others we take very seriously, work, family lineage, racial identification, nation of origin, political affiliation, patriotic pride, etc. Various religions, Buddhist, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologist, Pagans provide a story to understand the world through spirituality. Naturalistic scientist, atheists, many rabid environmentalist, and secular humanists also have various stories to explain the world based solely on what is observable. Each of these stories has heroes, villains, journeys to pursue, trials to face, competitions and endeavors to engage with leading to defeats to mourn and victories to celebrate. Yet, each of these stories are insufficient to fully understand what is happening in the world. They are told from the perspective of a few, they account for too little or try to account for too much, their plots often thin or have big holes, and their answers to our questions are too weak to sooth our worst pain, lead to our individual and collective flourishing, satisfy our deepest desires, or provide ultimate hope.
In our pluralistic world it is popular to assert there are many stories and that each (our individual story or collective stories) is equally valid to understand our world. While some stories can have overlapping themes, characters, and occasionally intersect, when every story has a different starting point and distinct plot it is impossible for every story to be equally true and conflicting worldviews are developed. Our answer to this conflict has been to pretend it doesn’t exist and for every individual to select their own story and own “truth” leaving us all more fractured and frustrated when the our stories constantly don’t line up with others.
In is the deepest conviction and assertion of the Christian Gospel (Good News) that there are not many stories, but there is THE Story that is big and sufficient enough to adequately answer our questions, root our identity, explain suffering, cultivate flourishing, and provide real present and lasting hope. In this, the Christian world view is a “Metanarrative”; meaning a big story overarching in providing a comprehensive explanation for every other “little story”. The Story ca seem both overly complicated and strikingly simply, strange yet familiar, and challenging yet comforting. We find this metanarrative in the ancient and active narrative of the Bible where we see both a story big enough to make sense of everything in history, now, and forever, and yet personal enough to find ourselves as we are truly intended to be.
The Christian worldview is seen through the lens of the Bible so we are to take what is says seriously, and many Christians and churches do. Various verse are memorized, sermons from the bible are preached, reading plans are followed (sometimes). Many, even those with years of church background, do not have a proper understanding of what the Bible is. Some, even with good intentions and a high view of scripture as God’s word to His people, will think too little of the Bible believing it’s really about them. They might describing it as an “instructional manual for life”, “Love letter from God” or use it as a collection of moral stories with many heroes (slay your giants like David, be strong like Sampson, while neither would be qualified to serve in our kids ministry), find rules to live by (don’t steal, be kind), or try to find “God’s wonderful plan for my life.” Others with a low view of scripture will say the Bible includes many myths (basically anything miraculous) full of errors (usually anything that they don’t personally agree with), should be read as an allegory (story with a hidden meaning) to be interpreted through the lens of our culture today. Both views are insufficient and rarely lead to real transformation as it is nearly exclusively concerned with personal affirmation.
The Bible is more than individual episodes and instructions. Every part of these ancient, Holy Spirit inspired, writings from 40 human authors across 3 continents over 1,500 year are links forming one solid chain of God’s Story of redemption of His people. In order for us to fully understand, enjoy, and apply each part of the Bible we need to that, and how, it fits into the greater narrative of the Bible. The storyline of the Bible (and THE metanarrative of history) in it’s simplest form can be understood through the four words: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
Creation | There is a God who has made everything both seen and unseen and made them “Good”. Everything is made for God’s glory and God is the source of all life and joy. Humanity is God’s crowning achievement because they reflecting the Creator’s image. Humanity is called to partner with God to creatively cultivate the world for an increase of flourishing. God and humanity are in perfect communion.
Fall | Humanity rebels against the Creator by rejecting God’s good command in exchange for their own self-rule and separation from God. This rejection of God is sin and has infected every person and every part of God’s good creation. The consequences of sin are death, suffering, disease, conflict, injustice, pain, toil, and separation between God and humanity.
Redemption | The Good God promises and sends a Redeemer to His people, Jesus Christ. In Jesus being fully God (God the Son) and fully man (born of a woman) He reconciles fallen humans to the perfect Creator by living a perfect (sinless) life, dying as a substitute for sinners on the cross, and resurrecting from death providing hope for this life and eternal life for those who believe in Him. Jesus ascends to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to build His kingdom in the heart of His people. This redemption restores the estranged relationship between God and His people as they are adopted into God’s forever family.
Restoration | Jesus Christ who first came in humility, will return in glory to restore all of creation to God’s original intention ushering in a new heavens and new earth. Sin, death, disease, and tears will be no more as all things are made perfect and joy will be fully realized as God and His people again, and forever, dwell in perfect communion. Jesus rules as king of this ever increasing kingdom where His will is finally and fully in earth as it is in heaven.
It is in this big broad story we find own between the Redemption of Jesus at the cross and resurrection and the Restoration of Jesus at His return. Creation is enjoyed in the natural and cultivated beauty of our word. The fall is still experienced as EVERYONE can agree that no one is perfect without sin and the world is clearly broken as war, injustice, and conflict are close at hand. Yet good news of Redemption purchased has given freedom to generations of believing Christ followers who have actively worked to cultivate the ways and values of God’s gracious kingdom all while fueled by the promise of future Restoration.
It is through the lens of this simple, yet grand, unifying narrative of the Bible (and the world) that we can return to the various episodes and instructions of the Bible, as well as the experiences and emotions of our individual lives, and see them as part of The Story!
The Sermon Series
If you think of the Biblical narrative as an beautiful Hawaiian Island, Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration is flying over it in a jet at 30,000 feet. When we study an individual book of the Bible or topic we are hiking through a lush jungle or spending the day walking on a warm beach. The 12 “chapters” of this series should be looked at as a brief helicopter tour where we get the broader context with more detail than a fly over, but less leisurely or in-depth as a hike. Each chapter some select sections of the island will be hovered over, some will be flown over quickly, and others will be skipped entirely (even if no less an important part of the “island”.)
The broad goals for this series are the same for every series. That we would have the target of our affections, hope, and worship moved from the things of this world to the Creator of this world who reveals Himself through the scripture and most clearly in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. Additionally, as disciples of Jesus who are called to go into the world to make more disciples we do seek to faithful engage with a world opposed to the God of the Bible.
Specifically, we hope this series helps those who know Jesus grow as disciples in three ways:
Increase our Biblical Literacy – Know more of the Bible’s story and how various ‘chapters’ fit into The Story. Understand how key parts of the Old Testament are best understood in light of the New Testament. What is happening in each chapter, what does each chapter tell us about God?
Adopt a Christ-Centered understanding of the Bible - The Story of the Bible is all about Jesus with the Old Testament anticipating and pointing to Jesus. The New Testament Gospels revealing God in the life and mission of Jesus. The remainder New Testament (Acts, letters, Revelation) unpacks the Gospel of Jesus, what it means for Jesus’ Church, and points to the great hope of His victorious return. How does each chapter contrast with, point to or highlight the work of Jesus?
Deepen our Gospel Fluency – We see how our individual lives, and the lives of those around us we are called to reach with the gospel, interact with The Story so we can more readily apply the gospel to every person, situation, and every area of life. How does each chapter give us greater confidence in the work of God on our behalf? What does it tell us about how were are to respond to the Gospel?
Lastly, we know The Story radically changes the life stories of individuals. Because of it’s metanarrative nature, all who hear it must respond either by receiving it as true and glorious or rejecting it favor of a lesser story. As such this series is also explicitly evangelistic. Our hope is those who do not know The Story or Jesus would hear and understand the Christian worldview. They would reflect on their own lives in light of this story, respond to the offer of salvation and life with God in Christ leading to a lifelong reorientation from trusting their own story to simply Trust Jesus now and into eternity.