The world God made is one that has a plot line. That is to say, all history is going somewhere. We live within that great story – we are characters in God’s narrative.
When we turn to God’s Word we get a glimpse into just how incredible the story is. It starts with Creation, with God standing over and against all that he has made, and yet relating to it intimately, particularly in his relationship with people made in his image. Mankind was to be a co-ruler with God – spreading his presence and glory to the ends of the earth. But man fell from God in Adam’s sins and rebellion, which was our sin and rebellion. In time though, God would slowly put his grace to work and overcome all the rebellion of man with its cursed consequences, like a patient farmer tilling the soil, planting a crop, and tirelessly pruning and weeding the ground before a great harvest. The climax of the plot is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man, who stepped in where we failed, and as the second Adam, became the new representative and leader for the new humanity. The great narrative concludes at a wedding feast in a new paradise on a new earth, where every song, every taste, and every face is a witness to the glorious consummation of God’s earlier promise: “they will be my people, and I will be their God.”
God’s story then is creation-fall-redemption-restoration. It is the story of all stories.
The tragedy for those who reject God, however, is that they need to substitute their own great story. In very generalized terms they might go something like this:
- For the atheist, the story is something like nothingness-angst-hedonism-nothingness.
- For the Marxist, the story is resources-inequality-fairness-peace.
- For the Muslim, the story is power-rebellion-submission-glory.
- For the environmentalist, the story is matter-pollution-stewardship-harmony.
- For the Eastern religious thinker, the story is oneness-disintegration-actualization-integration.
Everybody is living out their days along some plotline, some narrative that speaks of some form of salvation from some ultimate crisis or evil.
When we come to terms with this, we have discovered a powerful insight into the human condition. We are all in some story; we are all trying to find deliverance from some original sin; we are all motivated by some form of ultimate hope. Take it a step further: we are all worshipping some deity – some Great Deliverer.
When sharing our faith in Jesus, one of the things we need to try to do then is to graciously but sternly confront the false narratives we find that others hold to. That is because the resurrection of Jesus is ultimate reality and the ultimate climax of history.
In other words, “Our God is alive – and yours is dead.”
But then we need to confront the false salvation narrative at the personal level.
We may have a certain philosophical narrative we are holding to, but it may or may not be what we are personally and experientially holding to. For example, many Christians believe in the resurrection but think that the real deliverer from trouble is money. Likewise, many atheists believe that there is no ultimate saviour, but their functional deliverer is a romantic relationship.
If you are a Christian, God’s grace has gone to work in your life in a different way than it has gone to work in mine. Of course, we all share a common salvation for God has saved us by faith (and is saving us) and has given us the same Spirit and the same baptism. Yet the particular sin and struggle that Jesus is overcoming in your life is different than the particular sin he is overcoming in mine. For this reason, we need to consider our “testimony” at a deeper level. What is God saving you from right now, present tense? Maybe you were a poser now finding your true identity and confidence in Jesus. Maybe you were a womanizer now finding true and lasting beauty and pleasure in Christ. Maybe you were an addict now finding true freedom in Jesus.
Maybe like me, you suffered from a success-motivated, status-driven perfectionism that God is changing into deep joy and contentment in any circumstance.
Consider God’s grand story.
Consider how God’s story is working out in your story.
Consider how that intersects with the stories of others.
That’s the first place to start.