Everyone has a story. It could be funny, sad, dramatic, suspenseful, and any number of adjectives. Stories draw people in and keep them entertained. Authors live to tell great stories and readers love to read them.
It takes artful patience and skill to tell a great story. The characters have to be engaging. Setting has to be interesting. And all that is just a backdrop. Some of the most iconic stories of our time and before us are celebrated and loved by all.
But the greatest story ever told has all of these things. It’s a story that’s been repeated through other stories throughout time. It’s so compelling it’s become the pattern for many stories. But why are we talking about stories?
This story is all about holiness. You wouldn’t think so at first but you will see holiness woven through it. As I talk about what God has done for all of us we will see how important: this is, the very backbone of the story of God and his grace.
Sin on Center Stage
God existed before everything else. It’s because of him that anything exists at all. He powerfully created everything we know. But of all the things he did in those seven days of creation his favorite part was creating humans.
But he did a couple of things that would later cut right to his heart. After putting his heart into all of creation, the pinnacle of which was humanity, he gave them free will. He wanted them to choose to love and worship him but that’s not what happened.
He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him his most precious gift, woman from his rib and side. There were so many things for humans to be grateful for and to worship God for doing. He wanted them to avoid the pains of rebellion and its consequences.
So he told them not to eat from one tree in a garden full of them. But Adam and Eve could not stay away. Their curiosity got the best of them. It only took a talking snake to get both of them so far off track. And they would never be able to get back on their own.
They chose to listen to the word of a serpent instead of the voice of God. They opened the door to sin and the consequence of death. But it wasn’t what they thought – at first. God said they would surely die if they ate from this tree. But when they did, nothing happened.
If only that were true. Right away the knew they were both naked. Before that day they loved walking with God in the cool of the day. But when he came to lock with them that day they ran and hid in the bushes. Death is first separation from God. And then is physical death.
The God who did everything he could to create humans to worship and love him found himself walking alone in a garden he made to walk with them. Just like any good story, it starts with the sad part. But don’t count God out yet.
Sacrificing for Sins
Because sin separates us from God there was no way for us to walk with him or know him by our own means. This is a story of God choosing between his justice and his mercy. When Adam and Eve used their free will to choose against him he further started over. There were only two people on the planet.
But he didn’t. He chose more mercy and grace than we can imagine. God was the first to sacrifice for humanity and he would be the last. It would cost him more and more each time he had to do it.
It started with an animal in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve tried to fix their nakedness, representing lack of intimacy with themselves and God, with fig leaves. God knew this would never be enough. So he sacrificed an animal to put skins on them.
But it didn’t stop there. Humans continued to sin until he couldn’t let it go any longer or it would destroy everything in creation. So he started over with a great Flood. But it wasn’t long before humanity was back to its old choices.
So God chose a nation out of all the other nations to be his own. It belonged to him. He gave them his laws so they would know what he expected. But all his laws dead was show them how far away from him they were.
To avoid everyone dying from the death penalty in his laws he made the sacrificial system. Animals would die in their place so they could be holy before him. But every time they sinned against him they had to kill another animal. It didn’t last.
There was only one more thing he could do. He must sacrifice himself. And so he did. He sent his one and only Son to teach the people what he was really like. Even his nation had gotten off track. Instead of hearing his Son and being drawn back to him they killed him.
The first time he saved his people was from the Egyptians. They were slaves in that land and he sent the Destroyer to show the Egyptians their evil hearts. The Destroyer took the lives of all of their firstborn sons.
The only thing that saved his nation was to be obedient, to sacrifice a lamb, smear its blood on their door posts, and eat the lamb in preparation for their exodus. When his Son came on the scene his forerunner called him, “The Lamb of God who takes the sin of the world.
Sure enough, the Son of God would soon hang on a cross, his smearing the wooden posts like the blood of the Passover lamb. Except this time it would be a once for all, ultimate sacrifice that would take away sin from anyone who chose to trust in his sacrifice.
God gave the ultimate sacrifice. It started in a garden but it ended on a hill. The Father who wanted people to come to him went to them. He has given his all over and over. And this time it would change everything about his creation.
Forgiveness for Failures
People want to call their sins failures or give them another fancy name. They certainly don’t want to get involved with the Father’s sacrifices. No one understood why God would do this. But this became the only way anyone would become holy and able to dwell with him.
Holiness was required of everyone to dwell with him. It’s why he gave his nation’s laws. It’s why he provided sacrifices, to continue to bridge the gap sin had caused. To anyone who hears the story of his sacrifices and believes on the sacrifice of the Son he gives the right to become his children and join him forever.
His Son on the cross displayed his forgiving nature as everyone around him screamed at and enjoyed his crucifixion. He chose once again to act first. In the midst of the chaos he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The one Person in all of history who didn’t need to forgive anyone was the first to forgive. And as he held out the olive branch to bring peace to humanity, reconciliation twin God and his creation, he died to save them.
What he did on the cross, especially his act of forgiveness and opening the door for those who trust in his sacrifice and live for him echoes through the ages and is available even today. God’s high standards are impossible for humans to reach on their own, so he gives his Spirit to come alongside them. He has done the work from beginning to end.
Love for the Lost
Before he died on the cross the Father’s Son taught humanity all about his love for them. They were like lost sheep and lost sons that the Father was drawing back to himself. But they must choose to come to him.
He taught them how to love. Their shallow ideas of what love truly was weren’t even close to the truth of love. With every action the Father throughout history has shown them how to love. And then his ultimate display of his love happened as God gave himself to save them.
Now he demands that same love from everyone who comes to him. But humans can’t do it in themselves. They need his help, the help of his Spirit. And so he waits with open arms, an invitation to come and see, and then do, what he does.
But for many this compelling story still does not have a happy ending. It’s God’s story – but it’s also our story when we choose to follow him. When we come under his sacrifice and learn from him it becomes our story.
It’s the story of the sin that separates us from the one loving Creator who drained the dregs of his plan for us. It’s the story of a God who sacrificed everything, even himself, to open the path to peace with him. It’s the story of a God who forgives even the worst sins. And it’s the story of a God who loves with an unconditional love that cannot be measured. It’s the story of the God who waits for you.
If this is a familiar story to you, and it’s become your story, share it in the comments. It’s a story that’s happened over and over, bigger than just you and me. And it won’t stop until the Father sends the Son to pick up everyone whose story the Father has finished. Join me in telling his story and your story once again. It never gets old.