In a previous post I argued that the good news of Christianity is that in and through Jesus, God is renewing his entire creation, restoring it to its once-good state. Although humanity is restored along with that creation, God’s work is much broader than humanity alone.
The good news is that the whole cosmos is being renewed, humanity right along with it, and we, as individuals are invited to be part of that renewal today, through faith in Jesus.
The question is: how we are to be a part of that? How do we fit into that plan?
I think that most people think of their lives as a story–and in particular, a story in which they are the lead character. They are center stage, under the spotlight.God’s work is much broader than #humanity alone. #Jesus Click To Tweet
In the drama of themselves, they share the stage with many things that bear on their story: their family and the friends, their work and their money, their hobbies and their time.
I think that for most Christians, their faith is just another thing that impacts their story. The most important thing, perhaps, but still only one thing among many. This, I would argue, is the danger of the “Jesus died to save me from my sins so I can go to heaven” version of Christianity: it reinforces that life is the story of me.
I just can’t get behind this version of things, though, not least because there are over seven billion people in the world. Am I really the star, and the other seven billion merely bit players? Or are there really seven billion personal dramas being played out, each with its own star? I think this view of the world plays into the self-deification that is the result of the West’s thoroughgoing individualism.Let’s be frank, here: we are not the star of the show. Click To Tweet
To be properly Christian, we need to remind ourselves that God is working out a purpose in the world, a purpose that stretches as far back as the distant creation of the universe, and extends as far into the future as his glorious re-making of that creation.
YHWH, the god of the patriarchs, the god of the judges and the kings and the prophets, the god of Jesus and the the apostles, the god of the church—YHWH is the star. The drama is about him, and his purpose to renew and restore his whole creation. See another previous post about this.
The good news of Christianity is that we are invited to become a part of that restoration!
This means that once we place our faith in Jesus, we must give up the story-of-myself view of the world, and properly locate ourselves in the context of that story.
Some of us will have major parts to play, like the apostles.
Some will have speaking roles, but not much fame, like the rich young ruler of Matthew 19.
Most of us—and it’s important to be realistic about this—are just minor players. And that’s OK! We have been invited into God’s purposes, to play a part in his story.
Obviously, for people in this age, we are located in the church era of that story. Jesus has come, fulfilling all of God’s promises.1
The kingdom of God has been launched, most notably in the form of his church, the vanguard of that kingdom on earth. It is in the context of that church that we will find the fullness of our Christian lives, for it is that church through which God means to make his wisdom known.2
The trouble, though, is that even when we accurately locate ourselves in the context of God’s purposes, all of our concerns continue to weigh on us.
We still have families, and jobs, and friends.
We still have financial worries and time pressures.
All these things pull at us, tempting us to pursue them, rather than God. We wind up moving along a path that carries us away from God’s purposes.
At best, this means that our attentions and efforts are divided; at worst, these things can become idols to us.
We need to decenter ourselves. We are not the star of the show. Life is not the drama of me. I’m not what history is all about.#God is. Click To Tweet
When we understand this, we realize that becoming a part of God’s renewal of his creation means that we put our lives on God’s agenda.
It means that we take all thouse things that used to pull us away from God’s purposes—our families and our jobs, our time and our money, our hobbies and our friends—and reorient them a god-ward direction.
We approach all those things in ways that contribute to, rather than fight against, God’s purposes in the world. We submit our lives, in their every respect, to God’s story.
The remarkable effect of all of this is that our lives become integrated and whole.
Rather than living lives fragmented into different pursuits, each trying to exert dominance, our whole lives are ordered according to our participation in God’s purposes in and through our church communities. Then, rather than trying to juggle competing responsibilities, we live all our lives under a single guiding principle: pleasing YHWH, whose story we are now a part of.
That means that as we think about our communities, our neighbors, our cities and our world, we do so with eyes that are conditioned to see things from God’s perspectives. Rather than thinking about all of those things with ourselves in mind, we think about them with God’s purposes in mind.
What we do in our cities is not about us. What we do in our neighborhoods is not about us. What we do in our jobs and our families and our friendships is not about us.It's about #God. Click To Tweet
God is not calling us to make him a part of our story. The story of history isn’t about us. God is calling us to become a part of his story.
- See N.T. Wright’s magisterial Paul and the Faithfulness of God for a full treatment of this theme.
- See Ephesians 3:10: “Through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (NRSV).