About six weeks ago we began our visual theology message series – based on the book by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main components that make up this series. These are like the four reasons why we want to study Theology (or why we want to study God)… These are four things that every Christian should want to do.
#1. We want to grow close to Christ,
#2. we want to understand the work of Christ,
#3. we want to become like Christ, and
#4. we want to live for Christ.
Those are the four main reasons why we are studying theology – and these four components form the basic outline for these messages.
In the first component, which Greg just finished for us last week, we talked all about how to grow close to Christ. In that section, we talked about everything from how the Gospel connects us to Christ to our new identity in Christ. We looked at how God speaks to us through the Bible, and how we speak to God through prayer. These are the basics of growing close to Christ.
The second component of this series (that we’re going to start looking at today) is designed to help us understand the work of Christ. In other words, not only do we want to have a personal relationship with Christ, but be also want to understand what He is doing in the world. This is a key element of the Christian faith – we need to understand what God has done, what He is doing right now, and what He’s going to do in the future.
You see, the Bible tells us that we are living smack-dab in the middle of an incredible story! We are all part of God’s unfolding drama. Our life on this planet is just one scene in an eternal, cosmic story that’s been playing out since time began. It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director and the world is the stage for his drama to unfold.
And we need to understand that we are all actors in this great drama. Each of us have an important role to play in God’s story.
Because of this, it is essential that we understand what this story is all about and where we fit into it. Understanding our place in the great drama of God will actually make all the difference in how we live our lives….
In fact, as we come to know the plot line of God’s story, we find answers to all the big questions of life, like:
- Who am I? Why am I here?
- Why is this world so messed up?
- Is there any hope for the future?
- What happens when its all over?
The answers to these questions are all found in understanding this unfolding drama of God.
And so this morning, I’m going to take us through a very condensed summary of that drama. And basically, we can divide this drama up into four main parts – the Four Acts of God’s Great Drama.
Act 1 is Creation, Act 2 is the Fall, Act 3 is Redemption, and Act 4 is New Creation.
Every event that has ever happened in the history of the world has occurred within one of these four acts. In fact, we’re playing our part in one of these acts right now. So I’m going to briefly walk through each these four acts.
The opening act of God’s great drama begins like this…
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
In this very familiar verse, we immediately learn some key facts about this story. First of all, this story is about God. He is the Creator and this is his world.
In this great drama, God is both the author and the hero of the story. We would do well to remember that. I think too often we imagine ourselves as the hero of the story – that this life revolves around us. But it doesn’t. We are actors in God’s story. He is the Creator – we are the created.
In fact, that’s the second key point – man was created in God’s image.
As we read through Genesis 1 and we read of all the things that God created – the sun, the moon, the stars, the plants, the animals – all that stuff… But then we get to Genesis 1:26 and we read:
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” Genesis 1:26
This is pretty incredible. Mankind is unique among all of God’s creation – we are not just an evolved animal. We are created in God’s image. God has given us an eternal soul – we will never cease to exist. He’s given us the ability to reason and make well-thought out decisions & choices. We have morals – the ability to discern right from wrong. We are creative – we can imagine and design and build and invent and create all kinds of new and wonderful things. All of these abilities come from being created in God’s image.
God created us to be amazing… and good! In fact, all that God created was good.
At the bottom of Genesis chapter 1, we read:
31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Genesis 1:31
This is almost impossible for us to imagine – a world that was perfectly good. Nothing was bad. It was flawless. It was even better than what we might imagine as paradise! Everything was good. There were no genetic defects – no sickness – no brokenness… It was all very good.
And perhaps the best ‘good’ of all, was man’s relationships. Part of being made in God’s image is the fact that we are relational beings. We are made to have meaningful, deep relationships with each other and with God.
And for a time, mankind enjoyed the most fulfilling, joyful, meaningful relationships that we could imaging. The first man and woman – Adam & Eve – literally had a perfect marriage! Could you imagine! No fights. No miscommunications. No grudges. No frustrations with each other. No hidden secrets. Just perfect harmony. They found delight and life in each other and in God!
And that’s why this first Act of God’s drama closes with the words in Genesis 2:25…
Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25
Isn’t that awesome!? A life without shame. Without fear. Without guilt. Just harmony and delight. That’s the way that God created the world.
But as you all know, that’s not the world we live in today, is it? Something terrible has happened to God’s Creation. And that something terrible happened in the second Act of God’s Great Drama – the Fall.
In the garden of Eden there was one tree that God commanded Adam & Eve not to eat from – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had total domain over every other tree in the entire garden – in the entire world, really. They were free to do whatever their hearts desired – but the one thing that God commanded them not to do was to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
But Act 2 opens with the introduction of another character in this story – a character that we will later find out to be a rebellious angel – one of God’s angelic creations who – out of pride, rebelled against God and sought to take God’s place. Of course, this rebellion was quickly squashed and this angel was immediately cast from God’s presence. But now, out of his intense hatred for God, this being desires to anything he can to destroy or harm God’s good Creation.
And it’s this creature that appears in the garden as a serpent to tempt and deceive and to convince mankind to choose to disobey God.
Unfortunately, he was successful. For the sake of time, I won’t read through the whole story, but Genesis 3:6 gives us the end result. It says:
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. Genesis 3:6-7
For the first time ever, things were not good. Man’s sin brought about immediate and devastating consequences. The first of which was shame, but that was hardly the end of it. There were at least three catastrophic consequences for Adam & Eve – and for all mankind who would come after them.
Mankind and the entire earth would now live under a curse
As a result of their sin, God declared that the earth would be cursed and the good life that God had intended for them would no longer be reality. Genesis 3:16 says (and this is God speaking here)…
16 Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
17 And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
Life would become exponentially more difficult for Adam and Eve – and for all of us who would come after them. The struggles and the trials, the difficulty and the pain we experience today is all direct result of sin and it’s consequences.
But not only would their lives be more difficult because of sin, but sin would also sever man’s relationship with God.
Having willfully disobeyed God, the perfect harmony and delight that Adam & Eve once enjoyed with God was broken. If you know the story, you’ll recall that the first thing Adam did after he disobeyed God was that he hid from God.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Genesis 3:8
Sin always separate us from God. It drives a wedge between us. We can’t sin and be close to God at the same time – it just doesn’t work that way. Sinful men simply cannot be in the presence of a holy God. And that’s why we see the third consequence…
Man was banished from God’s presence.
It says in Genesis 3:23…
“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:23-24
Not only were Adam & Eve physically removed from God’s presence and from the tree of life – there was also a very real spiritual and relational separation. Sin had severed the perfect relationship that was once enjoyed between man and God – and because of this, from now on, man would be spiritually dead. He would be disconnected from the source of life – God himself.
That’s why Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. That’s the natural outcome because sin separates us from God – it separates us from the source of life.
And so the second act of God’s great drama ends on a terrible note. The good world that God had created was no longer a place of perfect harmony & delight. The perfect relationships that God had intended had been shattered. And instead, we see a grieving God driving mankind out of the garden, and away from his presence.
And at this point, things seem pretty hopeless. It’s not very long after this that we read verses like Genesis 6:5 which says…
5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6
God was certainly grieved with man – but He was not about to give up on him. In fact, God set into motion His plan to redeem mankind.
For the next many chapters of the Bible – in fact for the bulk of the Old Testament, we see a loving God pursuing the very people who continue to reject and rebel against him. We see how God chooses a certainly family who would eventually become the nation of Israel – And He choose them to reveal Himself to them and to lavish His love upon them. But throughout their history, despite God’s goodness to them, they continue to disobey. They continue to reject him.
But still God perseveres. He sends them judges to rescue them. Kings to lead them. Prophets to warn them and call them back to Himself. But time after time, mankind continues to ignore the call of their loving Creator.
And so finally, God sends one more person. God sent his own Son Jesus.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV
Jesus came to do what what the judges and the kings and the priest and the prophets could never do. He didn’t just come to call us to God – but to provide the way for us to God. He came to be our representative and to live the kind of life that God intended for us to live.
Jesus lived his entire life in perfect harmony and delight with God. He never sinned and so never broken that relationship with God like all of us have. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says…
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Even though the wages of our sin was death – and we deserved to be separated from God forever – Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life in our place so that we could escape the punishment of death.
In fact, not only did Jesus live for us, but he also died for us.
Even though Jesus was the sinless Son of God, He allowed his body to be whipped, to be beaten, and nailed to cross by the men who hated him. Jesus took the death penalty that we deserved.
But even in death, Jesus did what we could never do. He defeated death and rose again from grave.
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3b-6a
This is actually one of the most well-document facts of history. Jesus Christ truly did die and rise again from the grave. His victory over sin and death is the only way that we could be redeemed.
The word ‘redeemed’ probably isn’t a word you use very often these days – but it really just means to be bought back. In Bible times, if you had more debt than you could pay, you might end up as a slave to the one you owe in order to pay off the debt. But if your friends and family could gather up enough money, they could redeem you. They could pay off your debt and they could buy you back out of your slavery.
A more modern word might be the word ransom. It’s the same kind of idea – money is paid to buy someone back. To purchase their freedom!
Well, the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:18…
18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 1 Peter 1:18-19
Each one of us have inherited an empty life from our ancestors – Adam & Eve. We’ve inherited a broken world, a broken relationship with God, and broken relationships with each other. We’re born into a world that is suffering under the curse of sin. But God has paid our ransom by the blood Christ – the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
We can be redeemed simply by accepting what Christ has already done for us. All we need to do is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin.
This is the Act that we are in right now. This is our part of the story. We have the opportunity to be redeemed and to invite others to join us in this redemption.
Every one of us has the choice to accept or reject the redemption that Christ offers. And more than that, we have the responsibility to share this good news with others. This third act of redemption will not go on forever. The opportunity to receive forgiveness and life will not be extended indefinitely. So it’s imperative that we share the Gospel with as many people as we can (for as long as we can) because there is a fourth and final Act in God’s Great Drama.
And that is the New Creation.
This final chapter is the resolution of the story – it’s where God makes everything right again – and where all who have been redeemed get to enjoy the goodness of God and his perfect, renewed creation forever.
And we don’t know the exact dates or times for when this will happen – but it will happen! The Bible is very clear that Jesus will return to rule and reign over his renewed Creation. Jesus Himself foretold of this time: He says in Matthew 25:31…
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-32
When Jesus returns as King over all, the long opportunity for redemption will have finally passed. As this passage indicates, He will separate the redeemed (that is, those who have accepted Christ as their Savior) from those who have continued to reject Him and have chosen to remain in their sin.
And at that point, the redeemed will receive their reward – the reward that Jesus earned for them by His sinless life, his death & resurrection. The reward of eternal life in the presence of their Creator – enjoying his goodness forever.
Finally, God and man will be able to enjoy the sweet fellowship that God intended from the beginning. Revelation 21:3 & 4 gives us a glimpse of this day and it’s one of my favourite passages. It says..
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4
What an awesome day that will be! When God Himself lives right among His people and we can enjoy his presence and his goodness forever. Sin and all of it’s consequences will no longer trip us up or cause us hurt or pain – Because God will banish sin from his presence for good.
The book of Revelations gives us a glimpse of this day – the day when God finally banishes sin and everything evil from his presence. It says in Revelation 20:10….
10 Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10-15
Just like the redeemed will receive their reward of eternal life in the presence of God – those who have rejected Christ will also receive their reward – the wages of sin – which is death (eternal and complete separation from God). It’s a terrible and final ending for sin and all who refuse to turn from it.
But in the absence of sin, God’s good creation can once again be restored to it’s former goodness and glory.
In the closing chapter of the Bible, we get one last picture of what that future day will be like. When sin is removed from the equation and we get to enjoy God’s perfect, renewed Creation. Revelation 22 verse 1 says this:
Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Revelations 22:1-5
It’s an awesome picture of what our life and what our relationships will one day look like. I really like how Tim summarizes this in the book.
“The greatest joy we experience today is just a taste, a hint, of what will be. Christ will begin an eternal reign and we will be with him; we will reign with him. We will finally experience life as it was meant to be – an eternity of perfect and unbroken fellowship with God and man. The effects of sin will be reversed; the earth will be remade in complete wholeness and beauty; humanity will be perfectly joyful and perfectly fulfilled in God… It will be everything we ever wished for and so much more. It will be goodness and joy beyond what we can even imagine.” ~ Tim Challies: Visual Theology
This is how the story ends. In God’s great drama – that we are all part of – this is the conclusion that we are moving towards.
And I know that we’ve packed a whole lot of information into a short period of time this morning, but I trust that you have been reminded of (or maybe even seen for the first time) the big picture of God’s unfolding drama.
And as I said at the beginning – knowing how the story ends answers all the big questions of life…
- Who am I? Why am I here?
- Why is this world so messed up?
- Is there any hope for the future?
- What happens when its all over?
Knowing God’s story answers all those questions.
So the final question I leave with you today is this: Are you living your life with this story in mind? If this is truly how God’s drama has and will unfold, are you making wise choices with your life today?
First of all, have you accepted God’s redemption? Have you accepted what Jesus Christ did for you to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors? Is your name written in the Book of Life?
If not, then I urge you to make that choice today. We don’t know when Act 4 will begin and Christ will return and the opportunity to make different choices will be gone. At that point, it will be too late. Choose to accept Christ as your Saviour today!
And if you have done that, that’s fantastic! Knowing how the story ends is what give us hope even in the most difficult of circumstances. We can have comfort and joy and peace – knowing that in the end, God will make everything right and we will have an eternity to enjoy Him and each other forever!
But I also want to remind you, that while that’s fantastic for us – remember, that not everyone has made that choice. There are people around us – maybe our neighbours, maybe our loved ones, maybe our friends – who have not yet accepted the redemption that they so desperately need.
Thankfully, we’re still in Act 3. There is still time for them to make that choice. So I would urge you to pray for them! Tell them! Do whatever you can to show them truth of their situation and to share with them the good news of Jesus Christ.
We have to recognize the urgency of sharing the Gospel with them – because if we don’t – they face an eternity of separation. Separation from us – separation from God – separation from all of God’s goodness.
We have to let them know.
So to close today, I want to do two things. First of all, I want us to sing that great ol’ hymn – How Great Thou Art! It’s a great summary of everything that we’ve just talked about.
And then after that I want to pray for us – and not just for us, but for the people around us who don’t yet know Christ. We have to pray that our church – that this group of people sitting here today – will go through those doors and will tell them the incredible Good News of Jesus Christ!