Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Echoes of something bigger

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved reading and telling stories. I have vivid memories of many a long car trip spent entertaining my younger sisters with imaginative stories of my own, where I would come up with all kinds of intricate descriptions of heroes and villains, settings and sceneries. Yet time and time again, I found that the hardest part of telling a good story was finding an ending. I was good at creating problems in my stories, but hopeless at solving them, mostly because I never really knew where the story was going. But isn’t a story only as good as its ending?

Well, so far in Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel, we’ve been reminded that the gospel story, the story about God’s plan to redeem and restore us to himself through Jesus Christ, is a story that we need to keep telling, both to the world and to ourselves. In the last post we followed Chandler’s description of “the gospel on the ground”, where God’s grace through Christ transforms individual lives with power, calling us to repentance and faith. Yet just as individualism has pervaded much of how we view the world and our place in it, it often doesn’t take long for this me-centred approach to be the only lens through which we understand the gospel as well.

And so we’re introduced to “the gospel in the air”; the cosmic lens through which we see a story that is far bigger and grander than perhaps we first realized, and which we mustn’t forget. It is through this lens that we see the gospel story being played out in a similar fashion to a great four-act drama of Creation, Fall, Reconciliation and Consummation, held together by the unifying thread of “the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God” (p. 90). Ultimately we see that the story of the Bible isn’t limited to my or your personal salvation (as glorious as that is!); rather, the overarching narrative is God’s plan “to restore ‘all things’ for mankind’s enjoyment, Christ’s lordship, and his triune self’s glory” (p. 106).

We’re reminded that the good creation also groans and longs for liberation and the restoration of shalom, which has been destroyed through mankind’s rebellion against God. As Chandler leads us through the strange and sometimes forgotten book of Ecclesiastes, we’re given a “telescope view of brokenness” (p. 115) where the meaninglessness of everything under the sun is thrust before us, and the major complication of this narrative is revealed: we need a redemption that’s bigger than us. We cannot get ourselves out of this mess.

Yet as big as the problem is, God’s story offers a bigger solution. A redemption and reconciliation that is as big as him, encompassing all creation and acting as the ultimate demonstration of his love and goodness, accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. Just as Jesus reconciles all things to himself through the cross (Col 1:20), enacting a cosmic reconciliation, we too, as his ambassadors in this world, are called to live radically changed lives. Lives of missional witness as we, who have been reconciled, bring reconciliation to others through the gospel as we proclaim Jesus to our world.

Well, we all want to know how stories will end. Does she get the guy? Do the bad guys win? More importantly, how will our story end? The hope of the Christian gospel, the wonder of salvation, is that we have been caught up in this grand and cosmic story, the story, and in God’s mercy, we know how it ends. We have been brought into eternal relationship with the Living God, and so we have a sure place in the consummated Kingdom of God; where, together with all the saints we will dwell forever with the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (Rev 21:5, 22).

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