The Bible, Part 3

John 3, Wycliffe Translation, Lutterworth Church

John 3, Wycliffe Translation, Lutterworth Church

Welcome to part three. (Read part 1 and part 2 if you missed them). Last time I started to tell what I see as the great over-arching story that is told in the Bible. It isn’t the story of salvation, though it certainly contains that, instead it is a love story: The story of God’s great love affair with humanity. So far we have looked at the creation story and the Old Testament, now it is time to move on to the New Testament part of our story, and on through the great climax.

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Now we come to that most amazing and exciting part of the story known as the Incarnation. Here God, in the ultimate act of love, throws himself full-on against sin and totally defeats it! This clearly is the dramatic climax of the story, and the part that stirs our souls. But we do it an injustice if we mistake it for the whole story. Winning a battle is neither glorious nor valuable except in the context of the war. Without that context it is mere bloodshed and loss. But if we remember our context, then this is surely the greatest scene.

I am reminded of my favourite poem “Windhover” by Gerard Manly Hopkins. At the start of it the poet is observing a hawk as it soars, hardly moving its wings, its power over the winds shown in its quiet dominance. This puts the poet in mind of a monarch on his throne, regal and secure in power. But then, with a turn of a wing, the hawk throws itself at the wind, turning against it and diving. Now the image transforms in the poet’s mind into that of a knight going into battle, which is “a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous”. It is there, the poet tells us, in the conflict, that the true beauty is shown forth, and this is Christ (the poem is sub-titled “A hymn to Christ our Lord”).

This is the high point of the story and to it our eyes and hearts are drawn, but it is neither the end nor the theme. These are yet to be. I assume that the attentive reader will anticipate what is coming now. For what is the final scene in our story? Why, just what one should expect: A wedding and a “happily ever after”! And that is just how the book of Revelation ends:

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (19:9)
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:2)
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (21:4)

So there it is, the story that the Bible tells, as I understand it. Does it matter? Does it have any practical value? Does it change how I live? I would answer yes to all three. I believe that it gives our lives their true focus, living with God, and keeps us from being unhealthily preoccupied with sin.  It puts sin in its proper place, which is that of a defeated obstacle to the possibility of our loving God as we should, in response to His great love for us.

Now do not misunderstand me here: What Christ did on the cross in defeating sin is absolutely essential! It is rightfully the high point of the story. The cross is our doorway into the marriage feast and there is no other. But it is a door. Try this the next time you go to a party: Arrive a little early, go to the door and just stand there in the doorway. What do you think? Will you be popular? Won’t people think you are a little strange? Of course they will, because the whole point of a door is to go through it! That’s why we read in Hebrews 6 “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God…”

We so easily mistake the essential for the central. Yet they are not the same. For instance, breathing is essential for life, but the point of life is not breathing. So also the forgiveness of sin, the cross, is essential for our new life, but it is not its point. The point is that God is hopelessly in love with us and we can now be hopelessly in love with Him. There is a gospel worth preaching! There is good news that will draw people to God! Look at Jesus: Never once did He use the lure of forgiveness of sin to try to draw anyone into the Kingdom; But He often used the desire to be part of the Kingdom to bring people to deal with sin.

In the song “The Parish of Dunkeld” by the Scottish group Silly Wizard, the people kill their minister and turn the church into a dance hall complete with its own whisky still. Not a very godly song, to be sure, but the last verse is telling:

“If the kirk (church) of our Scotland
Held like social meetings
Nae warning ye’d need
Of a far-tinkling bell,
For true love and friendship
Would draw us together
Far better than fleeing
The horrors of hell.”

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3 Responses to “The Bible, Part 3”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    God’s choreography at work again, in that my Bible study blogging has brought me to the same sticky bit!

  2. The Bible, Part 5 « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] to pick back up my series on the Bible. (You can find the first four parts here: Part 1, part 2, part 3, part […]

  3. The Bible, Part 6 (the end) « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] for the final part of this series. The other parts are here: Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part […]

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