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The Story of Reality

The Story of Reality

Greg Koukl

Making sense of the two biggest issues of Christianity are the two major obstacles to people taking our case seriously. First, if God exists then why is there evil in the world? How could God allow people to be so wicked to each another? How could God allow natural disasters? And from Christians, how could God allow this to happen to me? Wasn’t God going to protect me? Second, why is Jesus the only solution? After all, wasn’t the main point of Jesus’ life to help the poor and advance social justice? To guide us in love, respect, and tolerance? Teach us how to get along? No, those are not the reasons He came. What is Christianity? Some think Christianity is a religious system. Christianity is a guide for living a fulfilling life. Christianity is a roadmap to Heaven. Others think it is a relationship with God, or with Jesus. These are all true enough, but they’re not enough. The answer to the question “What is Christianity?” turns out to be much bigger than those things. The correct answer to the question “What is Christianity?” is this: Christianity is a picture of reality. It’s an account, or a description, or a depiction, of the way things actually are. It’s a view of how the world is. It’s a worldview. It’s a picture, though, that’s made up of pieces that must be fit together properly to see it clearly. In that sense, a worldview is like a puzzle. The pieces fit neatly together into one coherent picture that represents reality—the way the world actually is. Of course, to get the picture right, you have to work with the right pieces. Once you have all the right pieces, then you have to fit the pieces together properly. So how do we put the pieces of our puzzle together properly? You look at the puzzle’s cover—the big picture of the Christian worldview—so you never get lost in the details again. A worldview is like a story. When you think about it, every story (if it is a good one) has four parts: beginning, conflict, conflict resolution, and an ending, a restoration. The Christian Story is different from other stories in a significant way. This Story is not meant to be understood as a fairy tale or a myth. The Christian Story is a true Story of reality. When I say this Story is a true Story, I am using the word “true” in its ordinary sense. I don’t mean “true for me.” I mean “true to reality.” The things the Story describes actually exist and the events in the Story really happened. It’s history. The backbone of the Christian Story consists of five words: God Man Jesus Cross Resurrection (here I mean the final resurrection). This is both the plotline and the timeline.

God

Greg Koukl

The first words of our Story go like this: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” (Gen. 1:1) First, the Story starts with God. God is the very first piece of the Christian Story. He is the central character. The Story is about Him. Second, everything belongs to God because He made everything. Including you. God created everything out of nothing. If God can create the entire universe with a single word, chances are He could change water into wine, if He wanted to. He can heal sick people. He can raise a person from the dead. Third, the Story has a theme. Ever wonder what the main theme of the Bible is? It’s right there in the first line. The Story starts with a king who creates a domain He rules over. The idea that God owns everything and has proper authority over everything He made is the main point. The Story is about God’s sovereign rule over everything that belongs to Him. Fourth, notice that God is distinct from the rest of creation. Nature is not God. Rather, God made nature. Everything was exactly the way God’s noble mind intended. Which is just another way of saying: “Everything God made was good.”

Man

Greg Koukl

In one respect, man is not like any other created thing. He has a rational soul or spirit that bears the image of God Himself. In an absolutely unique way, man is wonderful. The image of God in man gives man transcendent value. This likeness between man and God makes it possible for man to have a unique friendship with God. The Fall Man was capable of living in harmony with God, under His rulership in His kingdom, but he could also betray the friendship. He could rebel. Man is still beautiful, but…now there is a huge problem. Man is desperately fallen. He’s in active rebellion. As a result, man is spiritually dead, enslaved to two new masters: Satan and his own twisted, corrupted nature. The King is angry. How would you feel if you made everything perfect and your creatures rebelled and corrupted your creation? This is why there is evil in the world. Man’s rebellion didn’t just affect him; it affected everything. Bad things happen in a world that is broken. Two things are important to know about evil. One, evil is a part of our Story, but evil is an intruder, an aberration. Two, the Story is not over yet. With man lost and helpless, God Himself steps into the picture in a very unique way to initiate a rescue operation.

Jesus

Greg Koukl

Jesus was a real human being. He had true human nature. Jesus had a body of flesh and blood. Jesus was a man, but He was not just a man. Jesus was also fully God. Our Story begins: “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” Jesus’ Story begins: “In the beginning was the Word…All things came into being through Him, and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). "...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). In other words, Jesus was the same God who started it all. Why did Jesus come? What did He come to do? Matt 1:21: God to Joseph in a dream: “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus [“Yehoshua,” Joshua, savior, “The Lord is deliverer”], and He will save His people from their sins.” In Jesus’ own words, Lk. 6:31-32: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matt. 20:28: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” John 3:17: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." What was Jesus rescuing us from? Jesus rescued us from the Father. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). How did Jesus rescue us? What did He do? First, He lived the life we should have lived. Second, He made a trade, His life for ours (“Take me instead”).

Cross

Greg Koukl

Why punish the innocent One? In the darkness that shrouds Calvary from the sixth to the ninth hour, a divine transaction is taking place. Jesus makes a trade with the Father. Jesus takes the guilt and punishment adequate for every crime of every man who ever lived, and the Father gives sinners His righteousness. Jesus cancels our debt of sin. It’s called “substitutionary atonement.” Paul put it this way, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is why Jesus is the only way. He is the only one who solved the problem. No other man did this. No other person could. Jesus alone, the perfect Son of God, paid the debt for whoever trusts in Him so they would not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Without Him, we cannot be saved from our overwhelming guilt. This is a gift. It cannot be earned. It can only be received when you trust Jesus for it. This is what the Story means by “faith”—trust in the only One who is capable of rescuing you.

Resurrection

Greg Koukl

All human beings will be raised from the dead never to die again. Some will be raised to eternal reward. Others will be raised to eternal punishment. The Story says, "but when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left" (Matt. 25:31-32). At that final event of history as we know it, one of two things will happen: perfect justice or perfect mercy. Perfect justice—punishment for everything you’ve ever done wrong, and God misses nothing...or, perfect mercy— forgiveness for everything you’ve ever done wrong, and God misses nothing. All who have accepted mercy in Christ will go on to eternal reward. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:33-34). All who have rejected God’s mercy in Christ—either actively or passively—will be judged by their works and punished. “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…then they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’" (Matt. 25:41, 46). Important: The basis for that punishment will be their crimes against God (justice): "And I saw the dead…standing before the throne, and books were opened…and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds…and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12, 15). So the Story ends with everyone living forever. Those who continued in rebellion will be banished forever to a place of misery, darkness, and utter loneliness and ruin. Those who ceased their rebellion, who surrendered to their King, who received His pardon will live with Him in a new world enjoying the perfect life He intended for us at the first. If you’re a Christian, then this is your Story. If you are not a Christian, then this is also your Story because this is the Story of the way things really are. This is reality. The Story has five elements: God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. It’s a Story that can be told in single a sentence. God, the Creator of the universe, in order to rescue man from punishment for his rebellion, took on humanity in Jesus, the Savior, to die on a cross and rise from the dead so that in the final resurrection we could enjoy a wonderful friendship with our sovereign Lord, in the kind of perfect world our hearts have always yearned for.