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How to Find Yourself in God’s Story
Seeking your own good and cooperating with a Divine being are two very different things.
I was born and raised into a United Methodist church—a completely crazy, liberal United Methodist church. At 19, my very first job in the ministry was as a Methodist youth minister. Then I was the National Director of Vineyard Churches USA for five years, overseeing hundreds of churches. Surprisingly, about 14 years ago, I found myself called to the Anglican church.
But none of those denominational affiliations created my true sense of identity. My sense of myself wasn’t that I was the right sort of Methodist, the right sort of Charismatic, or the right sort of Anglican. Today, it’s not even that I'm an Anglican Bishop. Rather, I get out of bed every morning knowing that I'm deriving the meaning of my life from the Divine Story and how it is entirely fulfilled in the Person of Jesus. This Story informs practices of righteousness, justice and peace, which are designed by God as the most important aspects of my humanity.
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Eugene Peterson says in Eat This Book:
The biblical way is not so much to present us with a moral code and tell us live up to this; nor is it to set out a system of doctrine and say think like this and you will live well. The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, live into this (emphasis mine).
God’s Story Has a Beginning, Middle and End.
God’s story begins in Genesis with the powerful idea that God created the heavens and the earth. This means that the Story of God is unfolding independent of our thinking or feeling about it. This is good news: Someone is superintending creation and history. There is an orderliness to Divine creation in which we can place our confidence. There is a story from which we are invited to get meaning, orientation, reassurance—a worldview, lifestyle, and vocation/calling.
God called his creation good…very good. Good is the Hebrew word tov. It means something that fulfills Divine intention, that functions within the purpose for which it is created, that contains and produces the kind of life God intended for humanity.
Walter Brueggemann says:
The Creator has a purpose or will for creation…and continues to call us to faithful response and glad obedience to that purpose. Not coercive or imposed by a tyrant…rather, [God’s] sovereign rule is expressed in terms of ongoing faithfulness to creation, patience, and anguish [when creation disobeys].
This, then, raises two important questions to ask yourself today. The answers will define who you are and the purposes of your life.
1) Would you like there to be a Creator-God who is superintending history?
2) Do you want to shape your life by what God reveals in creation? Or are you committed to living your own definition of “the good life”?
Seeking your own good and cooperating with a Divine being are two very different things. Cooperation begins with loving God and in so doing seeking his good. It means we are on his team. We are thankful for our creation, our salvation and our preservation. We respect that there is something greater than us, a way that things are, and we seek formation into that Way. We are obedient to the design and commands of God. We repent and seek amendment of life when we go astray from God’s story.
In Philippians 2:1-11, we find a beautiful picture of Jesus, who in his attitudes and behaviors models humanity as God intended. Jesus did not see his Sonship in creation, within human life, as something to be grasped, something to be used to his own advantage. He gave up selfish ambition and all rights to grabbing what he thought he deserved. Rather, he was a servant—humble, obedient to death, even death on a cross.
This is the big idea for us as righteousness, justice, and peace seekers: Grasping, always looking for our own advantage, cannot facilitate creative cooperation with God. It cannot lead to justice and peace.
What we need in our human interactions is not more rights, but more responsibilities, more concern about the Creator and his creation.
When we are secure in God’s story, we do not have to fear and fight each other. Settled in God’s story, we find true liberty and freedom, from which true rights come—the right to seek righteousness, justice, and peace.
The Middle of the Story
Today we find ourselves in the middle of God’s story. During the middle, we focus on discipleship to Jesus. We take on a basic practice of self-examination to see if we are living in the story of God’s creative intention. As Paul described in 2 Corinthians 13: We want to come to know and pursue the right and reject the wrong based on God’s creative intention. We don’t want to hurt the truth but rather live for the truth. Truth is that which is good and aligns with the reality of God’s creative intention.
In verse 9, Paul hopes we will see that seeking the right and true is an invitation to a lifestyle of seeking to be fully restored, well-adjusted, fit for being human as God intended.
Jesus describes the final era of the Divine Story in Matthew 28. A fallen humanity is reformed and sent into the world to work with God in bringing creation to its Divine fulfillment. According to THE MESSAGE, the practices of this mission are to train everyone you meet in the way of life you witnessed in Jesus, and to instruct everyone in the practice of all Jesus has commanded.
The last era of our story has been going on for a long time. But the Story has been and is with us as a Person. This last, long chapter is marked by withness. Jesus promised: I’ll be with you as you do this—living into and spreading God’s story—day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.
In one of Tom Wright’s books, I learned a Trinitarian prayer that I pray every day, keeping me grounded in God’s Story
Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
Renew me and all the world.