The Greatest Story Ever Told
“He is Risen!” proclaimed Pastor Tim as he called to worship those who had gathered to celebrate Easter. This greeting has been proclaimed through the centuries as Christians gather together in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. “He is Risen” is a proposition, a truth claim, a declaration of fact. It elicits an intellectual response – true or false? Yet, in the abstract these words have very little power to change us. However, to many they are the most precious words ever heard. Why? Because we do not receive truth in the abstract. God did not create humans to be thinking heads on a stick. Human beings created in God’s image are a story-formed people and behind those words is the greatest story ever told. Behind those words Truth was embodied in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from the dead. Jesus does not simply desire to address our intellect by telling us facts. He came to transform our entire being – heart, mind, body, and soul – by fulfilling, accomplishing, and culminating God’s grand story of redemption. He came to invite us into His story.
When I hear those three simple words, they evoke a deep emotional response to the very core of my being. Why? Because they call to mind my own personal story connected to an even greater story. They call to mind my childhood where every Easter my family would rise before dawn to attend the Easter Sunrise Service at my grandparents’ small country church. In that rustic place surrounded by newly planted corn fields we sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Up from the Grave He Arose” as the sun peaked over the horizon. You could smell the egg casseroles baking in the basement below as the preacher with sweat dripping from his forehead took us on a journey with Peter and John as they ran to the tomb. “Now, Joooohnnn,” his voice boomed, “being the younger and faster of the two outran Peter and reached the tomb first! Yet, heeee being timid did NOT go in. BUT Peeeeeter always the bold and courageous disciple at once entered the tomb running past John to discover that the TOMB WAS EMPTY! Only linen cloths remained where Jesus’ dead body once had lain.” He is Risen!
Michael Goheen defines worldview as “an articulation of the basic beliefs embedded in a shared grand story that are rooted in a faith commitment and that give shape and direction to the whole of our individual and corporate lives.” In other words, every human is shaped by story and makes faith commitments based on the story they believe about God, the world, and themselves. Worldview is the interpretive framework for which people know, believe, and act in the world. It is the lens through which we see all of life.
Our worldview is the story we believe and live out as we wrestle with the biggest questions of life – Who are we? Why are we here? What is wrong? What is the solution? How then do we live? Where are we going? Our answers to these questions radically shape how we relate to God, to each other, and to the world.
· Origin & Purpose – Who are we? Why are we here? - If humans are simply the result of the long accidental process of evolution then we have no purpose and no destiny. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!
· Problem – What is wrong? – It is what it is…If this world is the way it is supposed to be then we are at the mercy of all destructive forces and are on our own to make the world and our lives better.
· Climax – What is the solution? - If humans are alone in the universe then we become the only solution to the very problems we have created. We vilify those we see as the problem and seek power at any cost for those whom we believe offer the right solution. The world is divided into “us” vs “them.”
· Morality – How then do we live? - If the universe is nothing more than what science can measure in the materialism of matter and energy then we have no ultimate foundation for the value of human life, the equality of human beings, or the morality of love. Look out for yourself! Follow your heart! Do what is best for you! Does it really matter how we treat others anyway?
· Destiny – Where are we going? - If truth is relative then who are we to declare that Hitler was evil, that Stalin was evil, that slavery is evil? Good and evil can’t be measured by science so shouldn’t we all just be pragmatic? Afterall, wasn’t Hitler just trying to create a superior human race? Wasn’t Stalin just trying to create a better human society? Wasn’t the South just trying to be paternalistic in their treatment of those they viewed as inferior? All these evils were committed in the name of creating a better future and society.
The story you live in matters a lot! The examples above demonstrate that good intentions can have drastic consequences when we are living out of the wrong story. However, these consequences don’t have to be relegated to the societal level. What consequences do we introduce into our own lives when we live out of the wrong story? Into our friendships, careers, sexuality, attitudes, emotions? Our hopes and dreams? The things we long for, are anxious about, the things that make us angry or depressed – they all say a lot about the story we are believing and living. What story are you living in? He is Risen!
Our Longing for a Great Story
Deep down inside, even if we can’t explain it, we all long to be part of a bigger story, to have our lives make a difference, and to be connected to something more than the reality we shape for ourselves. That is because in reality there is ONE grand story that all of our stories will ultimately find their place in. At Kaleo Church we declare that we are “formed by the gospel.” In essence we are declaring that we are a story-formed people. The gospel is not merely a list of facts or theological concepts. It is the good news of God’s grand redemption story. It is the story that provides the right answers to all of our deepest questions. God’s story comes before, finishes, corrects, and ultimately makes sense of all other stories. God’s story engages our whole being and gives purpose and meaning to all of life and hope for the future.
· Origin – Who are we? – Image Bearers of the Good & Perfect Creator, the Triune God of Love
· Purpose – Why are we here? – To Glorify God & Enjoy Him Forever
· Problem - What is wrong? – Sin! Humans rebelled against our holy God bringing the fall of all creation into death, sickness, war, hate, brokenness, and more sin and rebellion.
· Climax – What is the solution? – Humans are the problem so we can’t be the solution! Yet, the good news is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners! Jesus lived the perfect life we have not, died the death we deserve for our sin, and rose from the dead to conquer sin, death, and evil for us.
· Morality – How then do we live? – We exist to be a Christ-treasuring Family formed by the Gospel and sent on Mission to the world through the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God!
· Destiny – Where are we going? – Christ’s restoration has begun among His people today. His kingdom will come in all its fullness at Jesus’ return when his enemies are judged and his people are washed clean from the presence of sin. Jesus will make all things new!
The Bible is a collection of stories in many different forms – covenant, history, biography, poetry, song, prophetic, apocalyptic, parables, letters and more. This collection of stories creates ONE grand story about God and his love for and redemption of his creation. At the center of this story is Truth embodied in the God-man Jesus Christ. He knows your story is broken. He knows your fall into sin. He knows all your false hopes of redemption and restoration in the things of this world. They have let you down, but He has come to tell you that he will never let you down. He knows you fully and yet He still loves you completely. Sin, death, and evil loom as powerful enemies, but Jesus comes to give you a good news story of a King who left his throne and laid down his life to save his people from their greatest enemies. Yet, this King did not remain dead but rose from the dead three days later conquering sin, death, and evil for all time. The dragon has been slain and the King rules and reigns from heaven and will return to bring his kingdom in all its fullness by making all things new and beautiful and good and holy. King Jesus invites us to be the character we were created and redeemed to be in the greatest story ever told. Why would we want to live in any other story? He is Risen!
In a recent interview Pastor Timothy Keller was asked about what advice he would give to a young person scared and nervous about the future. Having been diagnosed with cancer in the past year Keller has likely thought a lot about the future. Listen to how the story he believes shapes his response to the most difficult things in life.
He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!