Because of Jesus, I trust that this world we live in has a grand overarching story with a beginning, middle and end, and that we- living in this world- are unavoidably in this story. It’s a story of God, God’s Creation, and us. The following is what I currently believe is the overarching narrative of the Christian faith.
Chapter 1: God & The Plan
God is the ground of all being- that which is relational, personal, eternal, and creative, and who is Love. This God is One, yet mysteriously can be seen in Three. We have called this one-in-three-three-in-one mystery the Trinity, and have called each threeness of God The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 14:11).
This God created the universe out of love, and as such creation is sacred. God created the first people made in God’s own likeness, marked them out with a calling to care and cultivate the wild & untamed Earth, and to live in relationship with God, each other, and creation (Gen 1:26-28). God’s intension is for humanity to participate with God in moving creation further forward, where one day God would co-rule creation with His people as a human King, and be in ever nearing close relationship with us; God being “all in all” (Eph 1:3-12).
Chapter 2: The Rebellion & The Rescue
However, humanity went against the grain of God’s calling for us. Even though good things like culture, family, the arts, new inventions (etc) keep in line with God’s purposes for creation being taken forward, such direction of creation became intertwined with decay, destruction, death, suffering, and injustice as we sought to not follow the wise & loving ways of the Creator and instead redefine good and evil (Gen. 3:1-4; Romans 1:18-25). As we worship creation instead of the Creator, we give over our God given power to co-rule the world to created things- things that don’t have power in of themselves- and in doing so we animate forces made in our rebellious image, that arise and enslave us. This mess is the unravelling of the world (Romans 5.12; Colossians 1.21). Our actions in this mess is what is labelled “sin”- and it means to ‘miss the mark’ of being what God desires us to be.
But God has promised to fix this broken world and get God’s plan for creation back on track. God’s plan to fix all things focused itself in a person named Abraham: God blesses Abraham and his descendants so that through them all people can be blessed (Gen 12:1-3, 15:4-6). Abraham’s descendants became a nation called Israel. Israel became enslaved in Egypt; however, God liberated them, gave them an identity and reinstated the mission of blessing all people. Israel made movement toward their mission, yet they consistently rebelled against God, and so the promise that God would fix the world through them looked dim. But a hopeful remnant was always looking ahead with hope for God’s rescue plan succeeding through them (Isa 40-60).
Chapter 3: The Rescue Becoming Fulfilled
The rescue plan eventually succeeds in Jesus Christ. God brings rescue to the world via Israel, but by collapsing Israel’s mission onto Jesus as their representative (Gal 3). Jesus is also the Human King spoken about in God’s eventual future for creation (Ephs 1:7); this King is the Eternal Son of the Trinity. In the very act of the incarnation of Jesus, God made a decisive step forward of uniting heaven & earth by uniting heaven & earth through Jesus.
Within Jesus’ society, some people believed He would destroy the ruling empire over Israel (The Roman Empire), other believed God’s rescue hadn’t come yet because the Israelites weren’t acting religious enough (The Pharisees). Jesus defied both expectations: He says that in order to overcome darkness and the political powers that held them captive, that it would come through radical love & service to all people, including their enemies (Matt 5-7), and He tells the religious elite that their religiosity had become an idol and blinded them to what God was doing through Him.
Jesus came healing people physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually (Matthew 4:23-25) and gives the broken & outcasts in society a place in His Kingdom movement (Luke 5:32)- all were signs of God’s healing Kingdom breaking into the world in order to restore creation (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus warned people that their rejection of His Kingdom and its ways would naturally destroy their own wellbeing and cripple their society (Matt 7:13), whereas the path to following Jesus would lead to true life- a life aligned with being a restored human being in God’s Kingdom on Earth (Matt 16:24-25). I believe that’s still true today.
Chapter 4: The Climax- Rescue Fulfilled
Eventually, Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and executed- however, three days later God raised Him from the dead. God’s plan was to fix the world through this event (Acts 13:28-30). For God’s creation to move forward towards God’s intended future, God must defeat all the things that stop creation from moving forward to its complete ends- which are the powers of death, evil, sin, oppression, and injustice that we had (de)created when humanity rebelled. And for humans to be included in His restored world, God must condemn such things without condemning us- the people who caused the mess in the first place. The snowball of sin, evil, and death that we created, was coming full circle and would destory us- but Jesus steps in and stops this by letting the powers do their worst to Him (and thus exhausting their power), and responding to humanity with forgiveness (thus not throwing the evil he exhursted back onto us). In doing this, he condemns sin on the cross without condemning us, which means he takes on the full force our rebellion onto Himself- which of course kills him- but in doing so Death dies in the death of Jesus, and we are now set free (Roms 3.22-26, 8:1-2, Col 2:15). God’s creation moving forward towards its completion now has its decisive victory. We now look to the cross and see it as our place of healing/cleansing- both cosmically, societally, and individually (Isa. 55); this victory is interwoven into all history across all of creation.
Chapter 5: Implementing the Fulfilled Rescue
The sign of God’s ultimate victory over evil is displayed in Jesus’ resurrection. He now rules as our human King from Heaven (which already mysteriously intersects with Earth, meaning that Christ’s presence permeates everywhere already) (Acts 1:9-11). As the Risen King, Jesus has issued a royal pardon to all people- the forgiveness of sin (Roms 8:1-2). All that’s left is to ‘wake up’ to this reality, to trust that this is the true version of all of reality (Roms 5:18). In such a trust we discover a new life of freedom (Roms 6:1-11; Ephs 1:3), a relationship with God, and a mission to be one of God’s representatives in the world (1 Cor 5:18-19). Such trust before God is declared by God as right (i.e. justification). In this new reality, followers of Jesus are collectively called ‘the Church’- the Church is the collective people of God’s new humanity; an imperfect but slowly transforming people following in The Way. The church’s role is to implement God’s finished rescue plan into the world through the making of disciples (Matt 28:18, 2 Cor 5:19-20).
Followers of Jesus slowly become more like Jesus over their lifetime- this transformation comes via The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us; The Spirit enables God’s future reality to be worked out in our lives & in the world in the present- The Spirit empowers us with gifts, and convicts, guides, comforts, counsels, and leads us into all truth (John 16:8,13). This Spirit is also what collectively empowers the church towards its mission and moves through all of creation- mysteriously interweaving through all that is good in the world and that which serves the common purpose of renewing God’s good world.
Chapter 6: The Finished Rescue & Plan for Creation Fully Realised
Jesus will one day appear again as He did and fully implement what He started: He will heal this world, make all wrongs right, and make Heaven & Earth one (Rev 21-22); this is the the climax of creation now coming full circle, with sin having also been dealt with along the way. Jesus’ judgement is Good News, especially for those suffering injustice, those who are followers of Jesus, and those longing for the world to be made right (Matt 25). All people and all of creation will be held to account- this would be like a cosmic truth & reconciliation commission conducted by Jesus. All people’s secrets will be laid bare, and all wrongs will be made right, in what will be a daunting, confronting, revealing, and levelling judgement. However, the results of this healing judgement is a world where evil has now be decisively and eternally dealt with.
Beyond this, for those who want to participate in God’s restored world- a world modelled and shaped after Jesus himself- can do so, and they will have perfect, eternal, and resurrected bodies. For those who do not wish live in a Jesus-shaped & saturated world, well since God will be “all-in-all” where no place in all of creation is left untouched by God, what it then looks like to be someone keep on rejecting God and God’s Jesus shaped world (where there is nowhere to go that escaptes this) is difficult to visualise- I leave that dilemma up to God. The tension is this: God longs for all people to participate in God’s restored world, and so God will not give up on people, meaning God’s love will forever seek to woo hearts, hoping for everyones eventual allegiance – but, God will also not force himself & Jesus’ kingdom upon people, and so we must maintain the logical possibility of people continually rejecting God. This tension of God’s outrageous grace that always desires to win all people over, and also the logical possibility of people rejecting God in an ongoing & resolute way, is one we must hold- to neither be absolute in either belief that says that people will always reject God, or that everyone will come to accept.
In the end, evil is destroyed, He makes His home with us, and we co-rule with God forever (Rev 21:1-4). We live Jesus’ reality in here & now in anticipation for Jesus to finish the job (1 Cor 15:58). This reality is made more alive and real to us in, and is lived out through us, in a personal relationship with God. To follow Jesus is to journey on the right side of where all of history is heading- towards Jesus & the Kingdom He is bringing.
Chapter 7: Living in light of this
Whilst God’s Spirit is on the move in the world and will find ways to woo all people more into Christlikeness however the Spirit can, God nonetheless wants to ground people in discovering that Jesus is the Christ, and for people to give their alliegnce to Jesus as the King.
If after reading this you find yourself strangely moved, then lean into this movement. Leaning in doesn’t mean you 100% have it all figured out, and neither does it mean you still don’t have questions or doubts. Leaning in can look like many things- it might look like attempting to articulate what’s going on for you in type of prayer (even something as simple as “God I don’t even know if your even real, but I just want to voice what’s going on in me”), it might look like sitting in silent contemplation and noticing the strange warmth of the moment, it might look like speaking to your Christian friend, or even going to a safe church gathering, or doing further research. Whatever it might look like to lean in, my encouragement is to lean into what is happening for you in this moment, and let it take you from there.
If in time you find yourself wanting to lean in all the way to becoming someone who has found faith, then realise that faith isn’t about having it all figured out- faith is like a trust fall. Trusting that there is a God who is revealed in Jesus, trusting that there is a purpose to all of history. In such a trust, there is a relationship to be had with a Jesus who loves you just as you are right now, and loves you so much that he seeks for you to be transformed more and more. This life you now live is lived- imperfectly- for him, and in relationship with him.
Resources that inspired the faith statement overview:
-Surprised by Hope (N.T Wright)
-The Day the Revolution Begun (N.T Wright)
-Shalom & the Community of Creation (Randy Woodley)
-The Very Good Gospel (Lisa Sharon Harper)
-Her Gates Will Never be Shut (Bradley Jersak)