The Bible is the best-selling book in the world, with over 6 billion copies circulating worldwide. It has been or is in the process of being translated into 1,300 different languages. 85% of American households own at least one Bible, and the average family owns more than 4. Americans who read the Bible more often than once or twice a year amount to 64% of the population.
From those statistics, you’d think the United States is a nation faithfully striving for God’s will. You’d think that, and you’d be wrong. To toss out more numbers, a recent survey showed that 75% of Christians reject the Bible’s stance on the reality of Satan. Over half of them disagree with the biblical teaching of Jesus’ perfection, saying they believed Jesus sinned when He walked on the Earth. Only 25% of professed Christ followers accept that the Holy Spirit is a living entity. Now, tthese statistics paint a more sobering, more accurate picture of the true spiritual landscape of our nation. People may read their Bibles, but they aren’t really listening.There are millions of people in this country who completely miss out on the joy of Christ because they are content to read along on Sundays and forget everything by dinnertime. Americans think they are buddies with God, but in reality, they have no idea how glorious God really is. So, the burning question is, how do we change the way our nation perceives the Lord?
We need to drastically change the way Americans approach His word. The Bible needs to be redefined.
For me, before I became a true Christ follower, the Bible was such a chore. Maybe it’s like that for you. You read it because you have to, not because you genuinely desire to learn and grow. You read it because you feel guilty, no other reason. You skim over your chapter like a good little Christian, maybe take a few notes or mark it up with a highlighter (if you’re feeling extra-spiritual).
Or perhaps your motivation isn’t guilt or religious pretense. Maybe you really are seeking wisdom. This folly is a bit more sneaky than the first, because it feels more like the real thing. You really do get moved by verses, and they do speak truth into your life. But, if you really took a step back and peered into your heart, you wouldn’t see a desire for God. Instead, you’d see a sinner’s heart with a few inspiring quotes on the wall. That’s what the Bible is, without its author: nothing but a few arbitrary quotes about love and forgiveness and peace. Those are all great concepts, and those are central to the biblical message, but if your ultimate focus is on those ideas and not on God, you’re missing the point.
The Bible is not just a collection of stories. It is not just a book of good advice. It is God’s way of telling us who He is, what the world is, and who we are. The 66 books spans from the beginning to the end of time. They tell the story. The BIG story. A fancy word that theologians like to use for the BIG story is metanarrative (which literally just means Big Story). The metanarrative is broken up into four sections, or chapters: Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Restoration. Through the Bible, the BIG story is revealed to us. By studying each section, we learn more and more about God’s character and our own identity.
- Chapter #1: Creation
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
This is where it all started, folks. Well, everything except God of course… since He’s outside of time and He’s been existing for pretty much forever. Anyway. So I’m going to assume y’all know the creation story, but if you don’t I encourage you to check it out in Genesis 1 and 2 (even if you do know it, it’s always good to refresh your memory). Basically, God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence, and then He liked it so much He kept creating. By the end of 7 days (or time periods, depending on your translation), God had created all of nature, from oceans to red blood cells, from tree frogs to honey nectar. He also created a very odd creature called Adam. He was created in God’s image, with a soul. He was to be the master of the land, taking care of it but also making his living from it. When the Lord saw that Adam needed a companion, He breathed life into Eve and invented marriage. The man and the woman lived in harmony with all of creation, and they shared a special bond with their Father, their Creator.
The first two chapters of the Bible reveal some key characteristics of God. He is the supreme being, the creator and sustainer of all life. He is artistic, He is powerful, and He is wise. These attributes can be seen today by just taking a good look at nature. Not only does Genesis teach us a few things about our awesome God, but we can also discover our initial purpose as human beings. God made us to be in relationship with Him and with one another, in family, which begins with marriage. He created us to be the masters of nature, practicing respect and good stewardship. Also, Genesis clearly states that God specifically designs humans to do good work. Our labor should be an act of love and an act of worship. Since the Lord gave us life and ability, we give Him the best workmanship we can muster. That’s how it was supposed to be.
- Chapter #2: The Fall
“We are all infected and impure with sin…” Isaiah 64:6a
Enter: The villian. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent Satan tempts Eve to do the one thing God instructed the humans not to do: eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s important to examine what happened with the first sin, because from it arose every conflict and tribulation of human existence. The problem with eating the forbidden fruit was the implication that Eve knew better than to listen to God’s instructions. The sin may have been outwardly manifested in disobedience, but the underlying problem was pride. Isn’t that the root of all sin? Feeling like we should be able to make our own rules?
From the biblical account of the The Fall, we learn about our sinful nature. Sin is anything outside of the will of God. It separates us from God on an eternal level, because sin is the rejection of God. If a sinner wants relationship with God, first his/her sin must be paid for. The Fall chapter continues for the rest of the Old Testament, chronicling some of Adam and Eve’s descendants, the Israelites. God chose this group and gave them laws which told them how to avoid sin, and gave a way to pay for their sins But the people were unfaithful; the sin payment of sacrificing their livestock would never atone for all their rebellion. The human race needed a hero, someone who could bring them back to a place of intimacy with the Father. A Savior.
- Chapter #3: Redemption
“In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7
Jesus Christ was unlike any man who has ever lived. He was God and He was man. He was a King born in a stable. He was tempted but He never sinned. He was holy, but spent time among the most defiled. He healed the blind and the lame and the sick. He spoke out against hypocrisy and He took faith in God beyond pompous religion. Jesus took our guilt and shame and rebellion with Him to the grave. His love reaches beyond the reach of any sin. By being broken Himself, He makes our brokenness whole again. The nice long word for that is “Justification,” which means being made right in the eyes of God. We can’t be justified by our own works; it’s a product of grace when we accept Christ.
The Redemption chapter shows just how deep God’s love for us can reach. It’s absolutely mind blowing to know that Christ endured such suffering in our place and then conquered it all. His sacrifice for us creates a bridge between the long-lost children and their Father. I can’t even put the glory of it into words. How merciful He is and how undeserving I am… But wait, I haven’t even gotten to the best part!
- Chapter #4: Restoration
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3
AHHHH!! This one is my favorite. It’s the one that can start happening right now, if you let it. Restoration is actually split into two phases: Partial and Complete. Right now we’re in the Partial Restoration phase. That’s just the time in between the Redemption and the Second Coming. When Jesus comes back, that’s when Complete Restoration will take place. Everything will return to the way God intended all along, with a new heaven and a new earth. Remember how I described Eden? It’s like that, but without that daggum serpent. We’ll be singing praises to God and doing good labor and enjoying His presence in His entirety. I’m getting so excited just typing about it.. Wow. (P.S. One of the greatest things about the promise of Complete Restoration is how stupid it makes worry seem. Every little trouble looks so fleeting when compared to eternity with God!)
But back to Partial Restoration. This phase is marked by one of those big theological words: sanctification. The best way to define it is by 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” To be sanctified is to be changed from the inside out, constantly becoming more and more like Christ. God has that really nifty way of transforming us, as long as we are willing to obey. As we dive in and study the Scriptures, we know when Paul (or any of the other Epistle writers for that matter) tells us to steer clear of something, or be sure to do something, that’s instructions for sanctification. The goal is to be less self-consumed and more Christ-consumed, so we can do the good works planned for us. Our initial purpose from Genesis is restored by our willingness to submit to God’s plan.
So it all comes full circle. Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration. The BIG story. This is the context we ought to be reading the Bible in. Not like a chore or as a fortune cookie with good advice. The Bible should be a testament to God’s spectacular creation and purpose for our lives. It should break our hearts because we are so very rebellious. It should read like an epic story of redemption by sacrifice. And it should inspire you to dig deeper and discover who you can be if you give up your own way and follow the Lord’s way. 🙂