So often when we tell our God story it’s about how we became a Christian, rather than why. It’s about how Christ became a part of my life rather than how I died to self to become part of His life in the larger God story.
When we speak about it, we often speak of our movement towards God through Jesus, whereas a more accurate telling would be to speak of the movement of God toward us.
What is this larger God story of which we’re a part?
It begins in Genesis 1; God created. The earth was formless and empty so God formed it, filled it and called it good . On the sixth day, God said: “Let us make humanity in our image,” and called it very good. On the seventh, He rested.
In Genesis 3, we read the serpent came and asked: “Did God really say…?” Humanity wanted to be in control and that lead to disobedience; the Fall. The world is so messed up by Genesis 6 that God decided He needed to intervene, to rescue the world, starting again with Noah and his family.
In those first 11 chapters, we read of our movement away from God.
So God intervenes. He forms a covenant with Abraham who He chose to change the world, to become part of His chosen people: “I will bless you so that you might be a blessing; a light to the nations.”
The story moves on to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, and to Egypt where we find the people of God have multiplied, but are enslaved in Egypt. God hears their cries and remembers His promises, so He delivers them through Moses. Free from bondage, God gives them the 10 words, or 10 signposts to freedom. But the Israelites take their eye off the ball and end up stuck in the desert for 40 years before finally taking the Promised Land.
Israel forgets it is to be a light to the nations. It wants all the benefits and none of the responsibilities. It wants a king to be like other nations, rather than leading other nations to be like it. God sends the prophets to come and rail against the idolatry of His people and the prevalence of injustice.
The people of God find themselves in exile; strangers in a strange land. A foreigner, King Cyrus, begins the rescue and under Nehemiah and others, they rebuild the temple and the walls.
As the Old Testament comes to a close, the vision the prophets have spoken of – a new covenant, a new temple, a suffering servant who will truly be a light to the nations – a Messiah – still seems a long way off.
After 400 years of not much, the intertestamental period, we’re into the New Testament. The gospels open with genealogies; a reminder of the story of which we are a part. The birth of Jesus, who is fully God and fully human; his baptism in which his Father says: “This is my son.” Jesus announces the good news of the new kingdom, calling people to repent and believe. He heals the blind and the deaf – because that’s what happens when you move from worshipping idols to encountering Jesus.
He breaks off the chains of injustice, turning the world upside down, or more accurately, right side up. But Jesus caused such mayhem that the religious and political authorities of the day have him crucified. And while he’s hanging on the cross, He cries out: “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” Darkness across the land. In this ultimate sacrifice, He brings life to us and three days later He is resurrected; He leads the resurrection parade in which all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe are reconciled together in him.
As we move into Acts we read of his ascension to Heaven and the breaking out of Spirit, in fire and wind on the day of Pentecost. Acts is the story of the Church moving from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, to Rome, through to the ends of the earth.
We read of the ministry to the Jews, that starts with Peter through to the ministry to the Gentiles, where we find Paul. It’s about the Church, who are a people living in a new world with a new identity and a new relationship with God. It’s no longer about getting people out of hell and into heaven, but about God coming out of heaven and into humanity in the form of Jesus.
We know how the story ends in Revelation 21, with a new heaven and a new earth and God making His dwelling place with us.
We live between the resurrection of Jesus and the final coming together of all things in heaven and earth. We celebrate God’s healing of this world, not His abandoning of it. We live in the tension of the now and the not yet.
This is the larger story that we have been adopted into as family members, in which we are joint heirs with Christ, in which we are new citizens of this kingdom. We need to know the story, we need to tell the story, but most of all we need to live this God story.