The Story of God and Man
Religion. Worldview. Philosophy of life. Whatever you may call it, we as humans have ever been on a quest to determine the meaning and purpose of life, why we are as we are and how we might live up to our higher ideals, both collectively and individually. No search for meaning and purpose would be complete—or ultimately successful, I believe—without pondering both the person and the message of the one known as Jesus of Nazareth. He came to tell us who God is and what He is really like. He likewise came to tell us how to truly experience life—the full life that God intends.1 Have you seriously considered what Jesus has to say—and how that fits into the overall message of the Bible? Here is a brief summary of what I call the story of God and man (all humankind) as revealed to us in the Bible and through Jesus. Please understand that the story of God Himself is much larger and is largely unknown by us—what is revealed to us is our place in the story...
In the beginning, we are told, God created the heavens and the earth—all that there is. How He was already here and brought forth this Creation is a profound mystery. (Of course, any other explanation of our existence likewise starts with accepting that something or someone was simply here—and it makes more sense to me that everything that is came about from a mind with a purpose rather than it all just happened by chance!) God created this magnificent world with a plan in mind—a plan that included creating humankind in His own image. Just as parents-to-be spend much time preparing a special environment—the nursery—weeks and even months before the arrival of the baby, so God spent much care in creating the earth for the crown of his creation: man and woman.
What does it mean that we are made in God’s image and likeness? While it does not mean that we are gods ourselves, it does mean that we are in some ways like God. In the first chapter of Genesis (the first book of the Bible), just before it says we are made in His image, we note a few things about God that may give us some hints to what it means to be made in His likeness: He is eternal, He is creative, and there is power in His words. Similarly, though not to the extent of God Himself, we are created to be eternal creatures. We have been given creative abilities that can delight God, ourselves, and others. Our words likewise can have great power. But perhaps one other aspect of God should be highlighted above all these: Jesus said, “God is spirit…”2
One of the characteristics that makes us most like God and sets us most apart from other creatures is that we are spiritual beings. We are more than mere animals. While some among us may indeed live in such a way that the image of God seems hidden or even lost, most of us are animated more by our thoughts and feelings and ideals than we are by simple animal instincts. We sense that there must be meaning and purpose in life, and we sense this from within—from what we call our hearts. We are spiritual beings.
Of course, you and I have both noticed that not everything spiritual is good, though we may not have thought of it that way. Often, people today without giving it much thought equate “spiritual” thoughts and journeys and pilgrimages as being things that are high and noble and good by definition. Alas, this is not so. Everyone is a spiritual being. Jesus said, “Make a tree good and the fruit will be good. Make a tree bad and the fruit will be bad.” He went on to say, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”3
Our hearts can be good or bad. Considering oneself “spiritual” doesn’t automatically signify a good thing. Those of us who are honest know that our own hearts harbor evil thoughts and desires. We often ask why we have such thoughts and desires. We wonder why we—and others—not only do not but seemingly cannot live the way we think we ought all the time.
Though God made us in His image, the story of man tells us that something is wrong with each of us. It started with Adam and Eve as they were not content to be be made in God’s image and to live as the crown of creation under His leadership but were deceived into thinking they could be equal to God. In disobeying God, they fell into what is called sin.4 They are not the only ones. We are all Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, and as celebrated writer C. S. Lewis wrote, “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”5
While we are created with great potential and ability, both by nature and by choice our souls have become marred. Our hearts tend toward hardness. We can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing.”6
Does this sound familiar? The story of man is a story of the spirit within being marred, leading to wrong thinking, faulty feelings, and bad behavior, all of which is bad enough in the here and now but also ultimately leads to death and hell, an eternal separation from the God who created us out of His love for us. The word Jesus uses most often that is translated “hell” indicated a trash dump south of Jerusalem that was always on fire, a place that further back in time had been a place where children were sacrificed to the evil god Molech. This paints a picture of a life that is wasted and tossed aside. Since we are eternal creatures, this is an everlasting state. Tragically, too many stop listening to the Story of God and Man at this point and somehow turn it on its ear. And because of that, they never get to the good news of just how much God does love us.
See, many hear of death and hell and tune out. “I can’t believe a good God would send anyone to hell,” they say, not realizing that it was not God at all who sends us away. We do that ourselves! We are the ones who sinned, not God. And in spite of our sins, He continues to love us. That’s why He came up with a way for our hearts to be transformed and our souls to be rescued. That’s where Jesus comes in. He really is the epitome of the Story of God and Man, for He is both God and Man. He is called both “Son of God” and “Son of Man.” He came to deliver us from sin and evil and provide a way for us to once again be all that God the Father created for us to be. In the wonderful words of the Bible, “God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”7
Jesus reminds us that life is lived from the inside out—that is, from the heart. He reiterates that we are spiritual beings and all of us are animated from the heart. He teaches us how to nourish our spirits so that we can become “good trees” who will then bear “good fruit.” Most importantly, He gives us the power to change and to be forgiven. Jesus, the only Man who has been completely what we were created to be—in other words, one who never sinned but always walked in perfect harmony with the Father—died as a sacrifice for our sins, paying for us the consequences of “death and hell” that we deserved so that we might not perish but have the eternal life with Him that He always intended! The words from the gospel of John say this so eloquently: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.”8
While this gift of forgiveness and deliverance and restoration is offered and given freely, it does not automatically come to any person. While God has taken the powerful initiative, it is not forced upon anyone and is only effective for those who respond to God’s initiative. And what is the response that God invites from us?
Two words from the Bible describe our response: repentance and faith.9 Repentance means not only regretting and being sorry for the failures of our hearts and thus our lives; it also means having the desire to see change and restoration. Faith means believing in Jesus, but not merely believing a fact to be true. The biblical word for faith is far deeper and richer. It means trusting Him for your life, now and forever, giving Him leadership of your life. It is no accident that Jesus said to others, “Follow me.”10 Trusting Him means making Him the Lord, the boss of life, for only He can lead us to the meaning we desire to recover and achieve. Believing in Jesus means inviting His Spirit to come and take up residence within your own spirit. That’s the only way. Try as we might, we cannot reform the deficiencies of the spirit, of the heart, of the soul. We need for God to enter in and change us. We cannot do it ourselves, but we must open our hearts to Him. Jesus often spoke of this figuratively, as we have already noted with the tree and the fruit. On another occasion, He said it this way: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”11
The Story of God and Man is man (meaning all of us—both men and women) receiving the Spirit of God into our lives so that we might live in Him and through Him, becoming like Jesus as He transforms us day by day. We don’t concentrate as much on the outside as the inside, for it is there that change is real and lasting, and when we change the inside, the outside will change as well. “Make a tree good, and the fruit will be good.”
Unlike the thoughts of many, "becoming a Christian” is not a one time event that simply provides a ticket to heaven but doesn’t change much here. Following Jesus is a journey that does indeed begin with a first step, but it is a journey of joy that focuses on the living water of Jesus. On another occasion Jesus spoke of our being “born again” or “born from above.”12 He was speaking of the spiritual rebirth we all need. But life doesn’t end at birth—it is there that it begins! Many “Christians” lack the love and joy God intends because of failure to continue the nourishment. Yet, the Apostle Peter builds on Jesus’ figure of new birth: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in our salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”13
Yes, we are all spiritual beings. We are all spiritual people, whether we think of it that way or not. Your spirit is animating who you are and what you do. It makes sense that your Creator knows your purpose better than anyone else—including you yourself! Becoming a Christian is more than assigning yourself a category of life; it is the center of all of your life as you follow Him and receive from Him the gifts that He has always intended for you, gifts like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”14
Jesus Himself was once asked to identify the greatest commandment in all the Law of Moses. Understanding that to a practicing Jew of the day the commandments were central to life, Jesus was really being asked: “What, in essence, is the meaning of life? What, of all God said to us, is the most important?” Jesus could not limit His answer to one, though one was identified as the greatest. Instead, He said these two are the Great Commandments: “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”15
Our primary purposes in life, according to Jesus, are to love God with all we are and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. How are you doing in achieving these purposes?
You can choose to follow many different paths in life; the only path that will result in your being all you were created to be and experiencing a loving relationship with God and others is to follow the way of Jesus. It is a grand journey that you can embark upon today. It is a journey that is not to be taken alone; the “neighbors” with whom we most closely travel make up what we call the church, in the best sense of that word: not a building or an institutionalized version of religion, but people seeking to walk with God and living life together, seeking to accomplish His purposes in the world.
Yes, this is a brief summary of the Story of God and Man as revealed to us in the pages of the Bible. Are you seeking to find meaning and purpose in your life? Jesus said, “Seek, and you will find.”18 Could we help in your search by sharing more or answering questions? We would be delighted to share with you more of this exciting life offered to us by God! Are you ready to follow Jesus? Wonderful! Let us introduce you to the life of the body of Christ, the church. Following Jesus means being part of his family of faith. Everyone needs a church. We would love to be yours! Use the “Contact Us” menu item above to send a message or to ask a question.
Written by Pastor Fred O. Pitts. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Image: Creation of Adam, a fresco painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1508-1512
1 John 10.10
2 John 4.24
3 Luke 6.45
4 The story of the temptation and sin of Adam and Eve is found in Genesis 3
5 C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (from The Chronicles of Narnia)
6 Romans 7.18-19
7 Romans 5.8
8 John 3.16-17
9 Acts 20.21 is one of many passages of the New Testament that speak of repentance and faith. Sometimes one or the other is used; they are “flip sides of the same coin.”
10 Luke 9.23 is one of many passages where Jesus challenges people to follow Him.
11 John 4.14
12 John 3.3
13 1 Peter 2.2-3
14 Galatians 5.22-23 identify these as “fruit of the Spirit.”
15 Mark 12.28-34
16 Matthew 7.7