Sunday, January 7, 2018

Story of God | Good News for the Guilty, Ashamed, and Afraid

Jesus' Gospel Captivates and Meets the Deepest Need of Every Person and Culture

Jesus Christ is not one more lovely story pointing to underlying realities  Jesus is the underlying reality to which all the stories point. Timothy Keller

As a complement to Keller's consideration above, I was recommended the wonderful little booklet by Jayson Georges, The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear CulturesThe 3D Gospel has helped continue to expand my considerations and make me marvel at the Good News of God's plan to redeem His people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and restore His creation, through Jesus Christ.

While every aspect of George's little book is helpful in understanding one's own culture (check out to see where you reside), as well as one's reaction to and need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The 3D Gospel also helps reveal the accents of The Story of God that need to be shared with people across the three core cultures that make up our world:

| 1 | Shame-Honor: Collectivistic, Eastern (Middle East, Asia, Parts of Africa), Holy Writings Focus on Heritage and Identity, Truth Comes from Tradition and Consensus, Re-active, Minimally Christian, 4.37 Billion 
| 2 Fear-Power: Animistic, Southern (Most of Africa, Caribbean, Latin America), Holy Writings Focus on Protection and Blessing, Truth Comes from Mysticism and Pragmatism, Multi-active, Emerging Christian, 1.42 Billion 
| 3 | Guilt-Innocence: Individualistic, Western (North America, Europe), Holy Writings Focus on Guidance and Instruction, Truth Comes from Science and Facts, Linear-active, Post Christian, 1.08 Billion  

In Chapter 3: Theology, Georges tells the Story of God through each of the lenses above (Shame-Honor, Fear-Power, Guilt-Innocence). For this post, I wanted to provide you with each of the narratives placed in the six-parts of the Story of God: Creation, Crisis, Covenant Community, Christ, Church, and (New) Creation

| 1 | The Story of God for the Ashamed Seeking Honor (Eastern, Collectivistic)

Creation: God has existed for all of eternity in full glory and honor. He is the honorable King, a Father who provides for the entire family. He is pure, faithful, and glorious – the essence and source of all true honor. To magnify His glory, God created the world and spoke life into being. From the ground, God created Adam and Eve, crowning them with honor and glory. They possessed authority to rule over creation as God's esteemed co-regents. As God's children, they lived under God's name. Adam and Eve enjoyed an honorable identity from God. They walked naked and were not ashamed. 

Crisis: But Adam and Eve were disloyal to God. They forfeited divine honor to pursue a self-earned honor. Their disloyalty to God created shame, so they hid and covered themselves. Moreover, their sin dishonored God. God lost face. Because Adam and Eve brought shame upon everyone, God banished them from His presence to maintain His dignity. As descendants of Adam, we inherit their original shame. Then our own defiled and disloyal heart increases shame. This shame shapes our identity and behavior. Sin (i.e. abuse, anger, gossip, boasting, racism, violence, war, etc.) is largely the false attempt to cover shame and fabricate honor. We manufacture a false status, often by shaming others or boasting in the superiority of our own group. Having lost our spiritual face, family, name, and status, our life is a perpetual effort to construct a counterfeit honor. As the tower of Babel story illustrates, people seek to exalt themselves and to make a name for themselves. Our shame causes disgraceful conduct and dishonors God.

Covenant Community: God then initiated a plan to restore human honor. He covenanted to honor Abra(ha)m with a great name, land, blessing, nation, and many children. As a great nation, Abraham's family would become God's instrument to bless 
– or honor  all nations. When Abraham's descendants suffered in slavery in Egypt, God delivered them from shameful bondage. Israel became the most prized nation, the apple of God's eye and treasure of His heart. God made a special covenant to honor Israel, if only she would honor God with loyalty and obedience to Torah. The regulations of Torah cleansed the Israelites' defilement and allowed them to be restored to the community. Though God intended for the covenant to produce honor, Israel's frequent disloyalty defamed God's name among the nations. When turning to other gods, she marred God's face as an unworthy spouse. Israel's chosenness led to ethnocentrism  group righteousness. They believed Gentiles were inferior and unworthy to be in God's family. Israel, like Adam, was chosen for honor but ended up in shameful exile. Even though Israel's story ends in national shame, promises and instances of divine exaltation (i.e., Ruth, David, Daniel, and Esther) foreshadow a greater intervention to rescue the human family from shame and restore its honor.

Christ: Though He was eternally glorious and honored in heaven as God's son, Jesus became a lowly human being in order to save people from shame. His miraculous healings and radical table fellowship restored dignity and honor to marginalized people. Jesus was so full of divine honor that those who touched Him became cleansed and accepted. By loving and accepting all people regardless of their reputation, Jesus undercut society's false honor-code, and offered divine honor to humanity. Jesus' life fully honored God. But Jesus' ministry threatened the earthly honor of established leaders. So they responded by shaming Him, publicly and gruesomely. Jesus was arrested, stripped, mocked, whipped, spat upon, nailed, and hung naked upon a cross before all eyes. He faithfully endured the shame and broke its power. The cross restored God's honor and removed our shame. Face was restored. God then publicly approved of Jesus' shame-bearing death by resurrecting Him to glory. Jesus now sits at God's honorable right hand with a name above all others. Whereas Adam and Israel failed, Jesus succeeded in being truly human; His life honored God and the human family.

Church: Those who give allegiance to Jesus will receive a new status. Their shame is covered and their honor restored. People must renounce games of social manipulation, status construction, and face management to instead trust fully in Jesus for new status. Membership into God's family is not based on ethnicity, reputation, or religious purity, but one's familial allegiance to the crucified Messiah. God exchanges our old status as unclean, worthless, and inferior outcasts for the status of pure, worthy, and honorable children. Those who follow Christ to the cross of shame will also follow Him into resurrection glory. Being welcomed into God's family allows people to welcome and accept other groups. Christians are able to honor others and glorify God since they possess God's eternal honor and empowering Spirit.

(New) Creation: Upon Jesus' return, unbelievers will be stripped of all worldly honors and banished to everlasting shame; while believers will receive crowns of eternal honor as God's glory fills all creation.

Key Verses: Genesis 2:25; Romans 3:23; Isaiah 54:4; Psalm 62:7; 1 Samuel 2:8; Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:8-9; Romans 10:11; John 17:22; 1 Peter 2:6-10

| 2 | The Story of God for the Afraid Seeking to Be Set Free (Southern, Animistic)

Creation: In the beginning, the creator God made the world by His powerful word. God is sovereign over all creation, the heavens and the earth. In love, He rules with absolute authority and power, and creation praises His mighty strength. Having made the world as His Kingdom, God appointed Adam and Eve to reign over the creation. Adam and Eve were God's co-regents, co-heirs of creation. They were given dominion to rule God's creation, symbolized by Adam's right to name the animals. As Sovereign King, God appointed humanity to rule His world.

Crisis: At some point, a host of spiritual angels rebelled against God's sovereign rule. Satan, the adversary, led the mutiny. The devil schemed to expand his illegitimate power over the earth by bringing humanity under his rule. The crafty serpent wooed Adam and Eve out from God's Kingdom into his domain. The rebel forces subjugated humans. Adam and Eve's family lost its position of power and authority in the world. Satan is now the de facto ruler. People's eyes are blinded and hearts are captured by Satan. Sin, spiritual attack, and idolatry enslave human souls to dark forces.

Covenant Community: To reclaim ultimate sovereignty over His kingdom, God selected Israel to be His special instrument in the spiritual battle. Through a covenantal relationship with Israel, God would expand His dominion to all nations. When Israel was oppressed in Egypt, God confronted the Egyptian gods to liberate them from the bondage of Pharaoh. The exodus demonstrated God's power to all people. God is a mighty warrior, whose heavenly power over evil translated into earthly conquest. When Israel relied upon God, He granted victory regardless of their military disadvantage. But too often they sought power in the wrong places. Israel succumbed to the temptation of false gods in idolatry and occult practices. Instead of depending on the Lord of Hosts, they allied with the gods of Canaan and rulers of larger nations to ensure protection and blessings. Prophets proclaimed and demonstrated God's superiority over the Canaanite gods, but Israel remained powerless to escape Satan's influence.

Christ: God's liberating power incarnated in the person of Jesus. He inaugurated God's long-awaited Kingdom. Fully empowered by God's Spirit, Jesus resisted Satan's offer of co-rulership and remained committed to God's mission of dismantling Satan's kingdom. On an unprecedented scale, Jesus delivered people held captive by Satan. By healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons, Jesus disarmed Beelzebub to plunder his kingdom and set the captives free. Because God was with Him, Jesus saved all who were under the power of the devil. The powers thought killing God's Son would solidify their authority in the world. Their plan backfired. The death of Jesus Christ was the deathblow to evil forces. The cross disarmed the powers and authorities and publicly triumphed over them. Then in the ultimate display of divine power, God resurrected Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead to a position of power and dominion far above all rule and authority. People must now turn from dark powers and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Church: Believers in Jesus are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. God raises us up with Christ and seats us with Him in the heavenly realms, so that we too have a power and dominion far above all other authorities. God's grace restores our authoritative position in the world. We are co-heirs with Christ. With constant access to God's Spirit, we now stand firm against Satan. Though Satan continues as a lion on the prowl, Jesus shields us from his evil influence as we affirm our identity and authority in God's anointed Son. God blesses Christians with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, rendering black magic and occult practices spiritually futile. As Christians walk by God's Spirit in faith and love, we conquer the enemy and strip off enslaving sin.

(New) Creation: The battle concludes when God binds Satan's forces and then rules the world from His throne for all eternity with His people.

Key Verses: Deuteronomy 3:24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 3:8; Matthew 12:28; Hebrews 2:14-15; Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 1:19-21, cf. 6:10-18; Ephesians 6:12 

| 3 | The Story of God for the Guilty Seeking to Be Redeemed (Western, Individualistic)

Creation: God is perfectly holy and just. In all His ways, He acts with perfect righteousness. Sin never enters His presence. This God created the entire world out of nothing. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. He gave them freedom to eat from any tree, but clearly instructed them to not eat from one tree  the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Crisis: When Adam and Eve disobeyed God's commands, they faced the consequences  physical and spiritual death. They were disciplined for their transgressions. Because of their actions, people are born into a state of sin, naturally opposed to God and His law. Sin separates all people from the holy God. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.

Covenant Community: God gave Israel the Law, which had two main functions. First, the Law revealed to people their moral inadequacy and need for salvation. Israelites were unable to fulfill all of God's commands by their own strength. Human efforts can never reach the divine standard of holiness. Israel's history is one of repeated disobedience and subsequent punishment. But the Law also included provisions for forgiveness of sins. God provided a means for people to make an atoning sacrifice for their transgressions. Israel's sacrificial system allowed for forgiveness through the ritual sacrifice of spotless animals. The Passover during Israel's exodus from Egypt foreshadowed how shedding blood saves people from God's wrath.

Christ: Jesus Christ, God's own Son, became the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of humanity. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life. Having no sin of His own, He was able to take our sin. Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God. He was pierced for our transgressions and bore the consequence of our iniquities. Jesus' death on the cross forgives our trespasses and cancels the record of debt that stands against us. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and went to heaven.

Church: God is now building His church from those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus. To become a follower of Jesus, one must recognize and confess the truth of their sin before God, as moved by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus reconciles us to God, our efforts toward moral perfection are in vain. We are saved by faith as a gracious gift from God, not by our own merit. Being forgiven of our sins, we are called to forgive others.

(New) Creation: When Jesus returns to the earth, God will judge all people justly and punish sin. The wicked will be condemned to hell and the righteous will spend eternity with God in heaven. 

3D Gospel Verses

Open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (fear-power), that they may receive forgiveness of sins (guilt-innocence) and a place among those who are sanctified by faith (shame-honor) in Jesus. + Acts 26:18  
Give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of light (shame-honor). For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves (fear-power), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (guilt-innocence). + Colossians 1:12-14 
In love God predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household (shame-honor). That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion. You can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes (fear-power). God made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (guilt-innocence). + Ephesians 1:5; 2:19; 1:19-21; 6:10-11; 1:7a; 2:5

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