At its heart the Bible is a story, the story of God and His people. It is a universal story that reveals what shapes and defines each one of us. It tells me where I came from, who I am, what my purpose is, and what lies ahead of me in the future. This story explains my desire for acceptance, success, and importance, my destructive cravings, and my longings for friendship, home, and family. In this story we find answers about what really matters both now and into eternity. And responding to that story and making my individual life story part of that story can radically change everything about my story for the better.
The central character of the story is God, who desires to create for Himself a people whom He can love and bless, and who in turn can know and love Him as their Heavenly Father and honor and serve Him with their lives. This desire finds expression in the oft-repeated biblical formula “I will be your God, and you will be my people," thus honoring us with an invitation to be in an intimate relationship with God which, when accepted, becomes a strong, solemn, and binding
agreement, or “covenant,” cementing the relationship.
agreement, or “covenant,” cementing the relationship.
In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal, and altogether good God created an orderly and beautiful world. As the crown of His creation God created human beings, male and female, in His image to live joyfully in His presence, to share in His oversight and care of this world, and to recognize and humbly submit to His gracious authority. But they had a choice, trusting in God, following His will, and ultimately attaining the glorious purposes God intended for His people, or trying to seize the power to experience the world as they chose and live their lives on their own terms. The tragic story of Eden is that by listening to a voice of darkness, they, and eventually all of us, rebelled against God and suffered the consequences: separation from God, broken human relationships, and death. This part of the story gives us deep insight into why so much goes terribly wrong in our personal stories and in the story of the world around us.
But God had a rescue plan! It began small with the calling of one man Abraham and his family, but accompanied by a big promise that ultimately through his offspring all peoples would be blessed. Abraham's descendants multiplied rapidly to become the nation of Israel, whom God mightily rescued from slavery in Egypt, established as His special covenant people and treasured possession, and settled in a home of their own, the land of Israel. Sadly the people of Israel failed to live up to their calling as a “kingdom of priests" to be representatives and agents through whom God could widely reveal Himself and carry out His plan and His purposes, but chose instead their own rebellious paths of unfaithfulness and disobedience. Yet God faithfully and graciously kept covenant with His people and unfolded His plan. God's promises through His prophets, and His careful and lengthy preparations in this period, pointed forward to the high point of the story: the coming of Jesus, who fulfilled the Old Testament expectations and promise of “the coming one", the one God would call ``My Son”.
Jesus came to establish a new kingdom, God's worldwide kingdom. In the process he scored victories over the powers of darkness, reached out with healing, hope, and forgiveness to the sick and disabled, the alienated, the poor, and those who were spiritually far from God. He taught the multitudes about God and His kingdom and invited people into it by becoming his followers, his disciples. He made amazing claims about himself centered around his identity as the Son of God. His most far-reaching act was taking the consequences of all our wrong-doing and our alienation from God upon himself through his completely undeserved, but powerfully effective sacrificial death on the cross. His sacrificial love proved more powerful than evil, even more powerful than death, as demonstrated by his resurrection on the third day through the power of God. He opened up a new way for all to renew a relationship with God and live life both now and forever as God intended it, but each person must choose to enter this new way through believing in Jesus or remain stuck in the old.
After Jesus' resurrection and return to God a few weeks later, the followers of Jesus united together into a fellowship of believers that rapidly grew as God continually added new believers to the close-knit community. Energized by God's Holy Spirit they quickly spread throughout their world, proclaiming to all the opportunity to become children of God and experience a new life by becoming devoted followers of Jesus.
They demonstrated that people who are loved and forgiven can in turn love and forgive others. Everywhere new communities of believers sprang up. Thus began a kingdom stretching throughout time and throughout the world to every nation and people. It consists of all who accept God’s gracious invitation for forgiveness by believing in the crucified Jesus and who find hope through faith in God's resurrected Son. The power of the gospel brought and continues to bring hope where there is despair, beauty where there is brokenness, and peace where there is anxiety and turmoil. Those who follow Jesus find new life, become valued members of the community of fellowship of God’s people, and join in God's work of proclaiming and advancing His kingdom.
Jesus announced and his followers pointed to and longed for a day at the end of time when Jesus will victoriously return and make all things new. He will make all wrongs right, banish evil and death, and gather the resurrected people of God to live together in the presence of God in His eternal kingdom. All of God's glorious purposes for His people will at last be realized.
This story is the greatest story ever told. It has radically changed our lives. If you have not done so, we urge you to consider making it the center of your life's story.