I love a good story. Whether it involves elves and dwarves, cowboys and aliens, star ships or detectives, a good story always grabs my attention. I imagine you too have many stories that you love. Whether it’s an old film, a familiar book, a play, or even that one hunting story that never ceases to add more detail – all of us have stories that are a part of our world. Some stories are worth revisiting. Others are forgettable. But more than we know, stories are a major feature in our world.
This is not unique to us. Every culture has held a place of priority for stories. Leslie Newbigin, Christian thinker and missionary wrote, “The way we understand human life depends on what conception we have of the human story. What is the real story of which my life story is part.” Maybe you’ve never thought about that idea: that you are part of a bigger story. Stories like this are like the building blocks upon which we build our lives. One great book that elaborates this idea further is “The Drama of Scripture” by Craig G. Bartholomew.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume this is correct. Let’s assume that our lives are guided by a larger story. If so, what story is guiding your life? Is it that you are a random collection of matter meaninglessly being hurled about? Are you a mere meat machine, living as a slave to your DNA and passions? Whether we actively give it thought or not, our underlying presuppositions or story impact every part of our world. If they are really like a foundation, then regardless of how beautiful the structure is which we’ve built upon it – if the foundation is cracked, the whole building is a danger to those in and around it.
Let’s ask a different question: Is there an overarching story to the Bible? What are its major themes? Scholars have wrestled with this idea much. But if we wished to pursue a concise examination of the work as a whole, we could sum up the matter in this way. The major themes of the Bible are the glory of God in His unfolding plan as revealed in Creation, Man’s Fall into sin, Redemption through Christ, and Consummation to Glory.
This overarching story or metanarrative is crucial for us to make sense of the whole book. The Bible is a rather large tome. There is no lack of places to come to it and discover God’s works. But the whole thing, from beginning to end is about God’s plan unfolding in time and space. His place involves the creation of a people in covenant (that is in a relationship) with Him. God is a Creator. But He is also holy and just. His people disregard His character and overestimate their own and that of the serpent. Sin demolishes the otherwise stable world of God’s creation.
The story should have ended there. If this story was like one of ours, we would take the page, rip it from our notebooks, crumble it up, and toss it into the trash along with our M&M wrappers and other failed attempts. But God doesn’t do that. Sin, like a coffees stain on the page, provides the background of the Author’s genius. From this broken, dirty, sinful world emerges a promise of Redemption. The darkness of sin juxtaposes the brilliance and light of God’s next covenant, the Covenant of Grace. This covenant is one of promise and mercy and written not in blood. Not the blood of fallen mankind but in the Son of God. Creation proved to be the stage for the Fall. But the Fall proved to be the setting for man’s Redemption in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
This is where we come into the story today. The Creation is well behind us. The Fall too. Even Redemption sits back well beyond our purview. Though it was accomplished, its application and on-going effects are as near and dear to us now as our very heartbeat or our breaths. As the trees dance in the wind and rise and grow so a Christian’s heart ebbs and flows with the blowing graces of the Holy Spirit who causes them to grow in the light of the Son.
But this isn’t the end. That would be to close the book all too quickly. Our tale and life are mixed. The Fall though conquered in one sense, still abides in another. Christians have one foot in the New World that is to come, but another food still firmly tied with our sinful world; hardly, a newsflash.
What the Christian does know, however, is that the story still has one more chapter. And unlike every book we’ve ever read the pages never stop turning at this conclusion for it turns out to be the beginning of an endless story. Here we are talking about the Consummation or the glory of God’s Kingdom coming in its fullness. When Christ returns, in a moment, every place where evil is found will be undone. There will be a judgment. There will also be a restoration – the likes of which we cannot even imagine. These acts or themes or moves ground us today.
We are not accidents hoping for better things blindly. We are created beings, fallen beings, redeemed beings who are hoping in the future Kingdom Come. This is our story, and it is greater than every other, not only because it is winsome and beautiful. But most importantly, because it is true.