Sunday, September 11, 2022 Brad Barrett
Story of God and Man—Introduction—Week 1—Living the Story
Think of the great modern novels and movies:
- Harry Potter
- Star Wars
- Lord of the Rings.
- And now, recently revealed by Prime Video, Rings of Power.
We love them because of the great storytelling. The drama. The humor. The darkness of evil. The triumph of good.
Before bed each night, I like to read. Usually I’m reading biographies or history of some kind. I just finished reading a book about a company of Army Rangers in World War II, and the tremendous bond of brotherhood that developed as they trained together for more than a year and then endured a hellish experience in battle in Europe.
Why do we love stories?
One reason: God has hardwired for stories.
Second, we live in a story.
Now our personal stories—at least mine— often seem mundane. Most days, there’s nothing that’s worth reading about in a book. But still, our lives are stories.
Jesus spoke often in stories.
- Sometimes he spoke of real-life people, like stories of ancient King David and the prophet Jonah.
- Sometimes Jesus’ stories were deliberately fictional and intended to make powerful points. Called parables. Like the Parable of the Sower and the Seed.
And importantly, Jesus’ own life story is recorded in the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
In fact, about ½ the Bible is a story. We call them NARRATIVES. These Narratives are powerful. Full of drama.
Examples: Genesis, Joshua, Chronicles, The Gospels, Acts.
When I say “story” or “narrative,” I don’t mean fiction. These narratives are actual history. The Christian faith is not merely a philosophy. The Bible records real people walking with a real God who has real answers for a real future.
Ten years ago, we pastors went through a semester-long study of the Core Truths of the Bible. The foundational truths that form Christianity. We invited about 7 or 8 leaders to join us. We examined, “What are the non-negotiable truths? If we describe the Bible as a tree, all the Stories within it are branches. Everything is connected somehow. It’s not a collection of random essays or short stories. But what is the trunk of the Tree? What are those core truths that are the essence of the Christian faith?
We wrote a short document that is like that trunk. We’ve called it “The Story of God and Man.” We’re going to spend 12 weeks going through this story. It’s the Story of “What we Believe” and “How we should Live.”
This is a unique Story.
- It’s like a Statement of Faith, but different than that.
- It’s like a Bible Walk Thru, but different than that.
- It’s like a class on developing a biblical worldview…viewing LIFE and our world through the Lenses of the Bible.
- It’s like a Catechism or Confirmation Class material you may have gone through growing up in Church.
So which is it? I’ll let you decide.
Convictions and Obedience
We have two purposes for this series.
The first one is CONVICTIONS. That we would all develop deeper biblical convictions about our faith.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
The essence of faith is not merely to know something intellectually. To know facts. It includes facts, but it goes farther. It goes to a deep conviction and assurance. This is vastly different level of “knowledge” we gain in our least favorite college or high school class. Pick your least favorite topic. Say Chemistry. What is your goal in that class? To get enough short term knowledge to pass the test. Then what? Once I walk out of the Final Exam, I don’t need to or want to retain ANY of this knowledge.
That is not the kind of knowledge we are talking about in this series. We want to know and believe. To be convinced. To know truth in such a way that we are transformed.
So PURPOSE #1 is to be convinced of what we hold to.
But there is a crucial Purpose #2 that follows Purpose #1. Once we know and believe truth about God and his plan for this world… what do we do with it? How should we live?
Our second purpose is OBEDIENCE. We might think of the word “OBEY” as a bad, four-letter word. But understood properly, to obey the Lord is a beautiful thing. And it is the natural outworking of CONVICTION.
You see, what we believe must change how we think and act and speak. If it doesn’t change us, then the Bible would say we don’t truly believe. And then critics of Christianity would rightly say we’re hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another.
As we read the Gospels, we find that the Pharisees and other religious leaders did NOT live out their so-called “faith.” Jesus reserved stern words for their hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:1–3 CSB “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach.”
They knew the right words. But they didn’t act upon them, which reveals they didn’t really believe it in their hearts and minds. In the Gospel of Matthew, at least 9 times Jesus called them hypocrites.
We intuitively understand this. The image of God has been built into us to know that if you truly believe something, it should affect how you live. For example, if I say I believe that eating healthy is important, that’s good, right? But then if I daily gorge myself on terrible foods, you would rightly say, “Brad, you don’t really believe that, do you?”
Much more is it true with Christianity. Throughout the Bible we are called to believe. To have convictions.
And importantly, alongside that we are called to respond. To believe in the right hand, to obey in the left hand.
One great example:
Romans 12:1 CSB Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.
Paul has spent 11 chapters telling us the essence of the Christian Faith…. the core of what God has done in history to redeem a fallen, sinful world. Paul expects us to believe that with all our hearts. To have conviction.
Now his transition is crystal clear: In view of the mercy of God has shown to you to save your lost soul… offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Live in holiness. Live in a way that pleases God, and so worship him.
So what we believe translates into action. This is essentially what this sermon series is about… because it’s what the Bible is about.
Even the OT addresses this. We think of the Ten Commandments when we think of the OT. Ten beautiful, holy commands.
Do you know what immediately precedes these commandments? God reminds them of his mercy towards them. He reminds of their salvation from slavery in Egypt.
Exodus 20:2–3 CSB I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me.
He tells them, “Remember what I have done for you. How I saved you from slavery. Now obey me. Respond to me.”
We wrongly think the OT is just a massive list of Do’s and Don’t’s. Just commands. And there are plenty, to be sure.
But there is a richness and glory to God’s call to Israel to obey. It’s founded upon deep conviction of his great love and rich mercy towards them.
This is crucial for us to consider.
Do our lives in action reflect a heart that truly believe the truth about Jesus Christ?
SIDE NOTE: This is not about living perfect lives. We are not ever going to live the Christian life perfectly on this earth. That’s actually why we need the gospel of Christ.
My point is, convictions lead to obedience.
The Apostle James addressed this topic of conviction and obedience in his letter.
James 1:22 CSB But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
If we hear the truth of God but do not respond to it by faith and in action, we end up deceived. Actually we deceive ourselves. Deception means that we believe something to be true that simply is not true. So our thinking gets off in significant and life-altering ways.
Later he said this:
James 2:26 CSB “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Over the Centuries, some believers have taken issue with James comments. He is so strong on works that it can, at first glance, seem contradictory to the Apostle Paul’s view on Salvation.
In Romans, for example, Paul clearly says you are saved, by faith, not by works. We cannot work enough to gain the righteousness of God. Only faith in Jesus Christ grants us righteousness.
James doesn’t contradict that at all. (Listen to this carefully. This is an important distinction.)
- Paul in Romans is countering people who want to boast in their work, and so impress God with their self-righteousness. They don’t have faith in Christ in mind at all. Their faith in themselves. In their own so-called righteousness.
- James, however, is addressing a different problem. He is facing people who say they believe, they SAY that have Faith, but their words are hollow because there is NO PROOF in their lives. To them he says, Your faith is not Genuine. It’s not real. It’s dead. And he is essentially warning them: “You don’t really know Jesus, and therefore you don’t have forgiveness and eternal life.”
John the Baptist said it so succinctly:
Matthew 3:8 CSB Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
If we truly have repented and believed, there will be evidence in our lives in our words, thoughts, and actions. Repentance looks like something.
So again, our SERIES is trying to do two things:
- In the right hand, we want to have convictions. To be convinced of who God is and what he has done.
- In the left hand, in view of confidence in those CORE truths that center us on God and his Son Jesus Christ, we are to learn how to live. To respond in obedience.
Chapters of The Story
So that’s an introduction to our sermon series on this thing called, “The Story of God and Man.”
But what actually is this Story?
There are 11 “chapters” to the Story. 11 topics that, like a Bible Walk Thru, give us a high level view of the story of the Bible.
Next week we hope to have back from the printer a 170-page book for every one of you. We have published a book for you. Everyone will get a copy. It covers the entire Story.
And it includes key Scriptures and discussion questions that we encourage you to bring every Sunday morning. And for our Small Groups to use this Fall.
So here are those 11 chapters.
The Bible is quite clear from cover to cover: God made us, this world, and the entire universe.
Hebrews 11:3 CSB By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The implications are many, and we’ll look deeply at this next week.
But briefly, thinking of our two goals for this series: Conviction and Obedience. Are we convinced that God is our Creator? That we are made in his image?
Are then are we responding to him as our Creator and Ruler? Do we acknowledge his authority over us?
Do we believe that every human being is made in his image, so every person—even our enemies—matter to him?
- The Fall
This is not a season, like Spring, Summer, and Fall. This speaks of Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve, created in glory and perfection, fell from glory when they sinned. They fell from glory into death and judgment.
Romans 5:12 CSB Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.
That moment in Genesis 3 was the darkest day in human history, surpassed in darkness only by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross….which happened because of the Fall. Sin and the subsequent death is now so pervasive in our world that it affects us every moment of every day.
If you understand this Chapter, all of life becomes more clear. The Fall helps answer dominating questions we have about life is, “Why is there pain and suffering? Why is this world….and why am I…so broken?” And the Fall points us to our need for a Savior.
- The Flood
Three chapters in Genesis give graphic details of God’s severe judgment over the entire planet, sparing only eight people, family members of a godly man named Noah.
This astounding story reveals two important attributes about God.
- He is holy and just. He will punish sin. We ought not to tangle with God nor ignore him.
- He is merciful. In the Flood we get a beautiful look at God’s redemptive heart. He desires to redeem and deliver mankind from destruction.
Though we may be skeptical of the truth of this event, the Scriptures record it as a true, real event in real history.
In Matthew 24, we read that Jesus believed that Noah was real and the Flood was true. The Apostle Peter and the author of Hebrews in their writings believed it was true. It’s a shocking story that opens our eyes to the righteousness and mercy of God.
- Promise & Covenant
This topic doesn’t usually garner much attention in churches and in our Bible reading. But it is so foundational to our faith in God and his Son, Jesus.
God has worked throughout history making promises to mankind. And with even more detail, he has made covenants. Foundational covenants made to Abraham, Moses, and David. And all of them connect us to the gospel of Christ. And the gospel is a covenant. The New Covenant.
Additionally, we also learn about God’s nature, that he is a promise keeper. When he commits to something in a promise or covenant, it will happen. He will never fail his word.
- Blessings and Curses
The Old Testament in general is widely misunderstood by Christians, and sometimes we avoid reading it because we just don’t get it.
So this chapter gives us a framework to know what is happening in the broad sense throughout the OT. How and why God worked in his people Israel. And how and why the people failed.
Without convictions and understanding in this, the OT won’t make much sense. But it does all tie together.
And importantly, it leads us towards the New Testament.
- Jesus and the Kingdom
This chapter in our story marks a turning point in human history. And it reveals the core of the Christian faith. Without this chapter, there is no Christianity.
God sent his own Son into the world to rescue men and women who were made in his image but have rebelled and so deserve judgment.
Galatians 4:4-6 CSB When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”
After centuries of covenants and prophecies pointing to a glorious redemption of mankind, at the right time, God sent his Son into this world through miraculous means. A virgin conception by the Holy Spirit. A sinless life. Mighty miracles. Casting out demons. Healing diseases.
Through all this, Jesus Christ authenticated his claims to be the Messiah. The King of kings. The Judge of all the earth. The exact representation of God the Father in heaven.
Through plots of evil men… yet through the Father’s predetermined plan… Jesus Christ, the Innocent One, was brutally murdered. He died like a lamb….the Lamb of God…as a substitute. He died to pay for our sins. He died to conquer death that conquered us.
Jesus calls us to believe in him. To have convictions of who he is and what he has done. And when we believe, eternal life—Jesus’ resurrected life—now becomes ours.
Jesus summarizes it so beautifully here:
John 5:24 CSB “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”
- Resurrection, Commission, and Ascension
As we just looked at the past two Sundays, Jesus Christ died, rose from the dead, and ascended literally and bodily into heaven where he intercedes now for the forgiveness of our sins. And we await his return to earth soon.
Death has been defeated. Hope has been restored to this world.
We are now commanded to wait expectantly for him to return. And if we have conviction of this, we will live differently. We will live in a way that honors him and obeys him.
- The Holy Spirit
This is a remarkable chapter in the history of God’s dealings with mankind.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he left us physically, but did not leave us alone. We are not orphans. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of his followers.
Ephesians 1:13–14 CSB In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.
If you are a believer in Jesus, you ought to wake up every morning and give thanks that the Spirit is so near to us. And part of his role is to guide us. Comforts us. Convicts us. Strengthens us.
And whenever God seems distant—too distant— off in heaven somewhere… he couldn’t be nearer. He is sealed in our hearts until Jesus comes back. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
The presence and the power of the Holy Spirit is a vital chapter in the Story of God and Man.
- The Church
The Church is not a Sunday morning meeting at 10:00 a.m. The Church is not a building.
The Church of God is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ, commit themselves to one another as they gather to worship and to grow in our faith.
1 Timothy 3:15 CSB But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
In the OT era, God worked primarily through a nation. Since the resurrection of Christ, God now works through his gathered followers called the church.
Do we have convictions—are we solidly convinced—of the necessity of being devoted to God’s people called the church?
- The Bible
Seldom, it seems, has any man or woman actually heard from God audibly. But God has given us knowledge of him primarily through his written Word. Words he prompted various people to write down so that every generation following would know Jesus and walk with him.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
It’s why Stonebrook along with many other churches talk about the Bible so much.
Do we have conviction that this book—from cover to cover—is sent down to us from heaven? Are we convinced that God’s Word is unchanging? That it is instructive and authoritative and useful for every generation?
- Kingdom Consummation
This chapter is the best one of all. And it’s the only chapter that is still future.
When Jesus came to earth the first time, he was called King at his birth and at his death. In one way, he is King now.
But in another way, his kingdom is not consummated yet. All things in this world are not yet under his rule in an absolute sense.
But just as he ascended into heaven, he will return literally and physically. And when he does, he will establish his perfect and eternal kingdom.
Revelation 22:12–13 CSB “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
- Judgment will be complete and fair.
- Death will be abolished.
- Sin will be absent.
- Pain will be taken away.
- Sorrow and sadness will never trouble us again.
- Heaven and earth will be made brand new.
All this is why Jesus taught us to pray, “May your kingdom come.” We need him to return as King more than we need breath.
Do we believe this? Do we live like it’s true?
Conflict with the Story
So that’s a very brief flyover of this unique sermon series for the Fall.
I can’t end without saying one important thing: Some parts of the story are difficult to understand and believe.
- Creation. Did God really make this world out of nothing?
- The Flood. Did God really flood the entire earth in judgment?
- And even more. We just finished a series on the Gospel of Luke, and Jesus performed miracles that may seem hard to believe.
- And the resurrection of Christ? Even his own disciples didn’t believe it was true until they felt his hands and feet.
Much of what we encounter in this story will be a very different worldview than our society has. We will examine a biblical worldview… a biblical perspective on God and life… that contrasts and even contradicts the worldview of our society. And the society you grew up in.
This series will contrast and contradict because the Bible contrasts and contradicts. And if we don’t learn to know and obey what God has written in his Scriptures, we will routinely find ourselves in confusion and in doubts. And even in defiance.
For many of you, this Story will strengthen what you already know and believe. You will say, “I know this, and I am grateful for the opportunity to test and strengthen my convictions.” Your faith in the Living God and his Son, Jesus, will strengthen. Your obedience to him will increase.
For others of us, this Story may poke at us a bit. There will be some topics and Scriptures we will cover, and you will say, “Umm, I don’t think I agree with that. I don’t see how that could be true.” That’s a good, honest admission. We don’t want to fake our faith. But admittedly, we do want to move us all towards Faith and Obedience. Our goal is to present to you God in all his wisdom. To speak of the Lord as he truly is, not simply who we want him to be.
If you are skeptical of the things of God, I have one request: Will you at least be willing to respond to God? Will you give it an honest look, not a pre-determined defiant one? Are you willing to follow?
As one example, Jesus said this to a very skeptical crowd:
John 7:17 ESV If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
Even if you’re not yet 100% sure the Bible is all true, are you willing to respond to God? If you are, Jesus assures that we will discover that everything he says is absolutely true and from heaven.
As we close this morning, we remember God has a story. We are part of that Story. And it is for us.
I am eager to learn from This Story this Fall. It’s an exciting time.
All this will take faith. And we define faith very simply: Though we cannot see, yet we believe.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
One of Jesus’ disciples was very skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection. He had not been present when Jesus presented himself to the rest of the disciples. But a week later, Jesus appeared to him, and Thomas finally believed.
Jesus had some unique words to his doubting friend:
John 20:29 NIV Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We all wish we could see Jesus physically, but we cannot right now. Yet we still believe in him. And as we do, Jesus promises great blessing to all of us.
For the next 11 weeks we will open the book and begin reading the Greatest Story ever told.