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.
The Story of Reality
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.
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.”
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.