Christian friends, do you believe in the risen Christ? Is he your Savior? In that case, you can face death but you can face anything. Can you face worry? Can you face troubles? You already sang about it in the first hymn: ‘Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.’ If you believe the risen Christ is now in control of history, even the bad things that happen to you are crosses that are going to raise you. ‘Come on, crosses!’ says a Christian. ‘The lower you lay me, the higher you’ll raise me.’ ‘Come on, crosses!’ you say. ‘Jesus the risen Lord is in charge of everything.’
To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be ‘gods.’ They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self- image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.
What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.
‘Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ – John 17:3
The call to love your brothers and sisters, to love one another as Christ has loved you, is so hard. It’s so silly to think all we have to do is hold up the ethic of love, love your neighbor, to the world and it will become a better place.
You must be born again. The life of God has to be running through you like lightning. You’ll never do it otherwise.
Now if you are perplexed, if you are oppressed, if you don’t get it, if God looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, I’m telling you, you’re in too close. You’re looking just at the present and not at the end, like this guy does. Or you’re looking only at, ‘Isn’t God loving?’ Yes, but he’s holy. Or if you just look at, ‘Isn’t God holy?’ Yes, but he’s wise. It’s not until you stand back and begin to look at all the sides of things. ‘Aren’t human beings sinful?’ Yes, but also they’re made in the image of God. ‘Aren’t human beings valuable and dignified?’ Yes, but also they’re wretched, wicked sinners.
Don’t you see? Only Christianity looks at the whole thing. If you’re in a problem right now, if you’re in trouble right now, you have to do what Asaph did. You have to do what the psalmist did. You have to go into the sanctuary. ‘… then I understood …’ What did he do? He stands back. He sees the big picture.
Look again at the uniqueness of Christianity. Only the Christian worldview locates the problem with the world not in any part of the world or in any particular group of people but in sin itself (our loss of relationship with God). And it locates the solution in God’s grace (our restoration of a relationship with God through the work of Christ). Sin infects us all, and so we cannot simply divide the world into the heroes and the villains. (And if we did , we would certainly have to count ourselves among the latter as well as the former.) Without an understanding of the gospel, we will be either naively utopian or cynically disillusioned. We will be demonizing something that isn’t bad enough to explain the mess we are in; and we will be idolizing something that isn’t powerful enough to get us out of it. This is, in the end, what all other worldviews do.
The Christian story line works beautifully to make sense of things and even to help us appreciate the truth embedded in stories that clearly come from another worldview. The Christian story line, or worldview, is: creation (plan), fall (problem), redemption and restoration (solution):
The whole world is good. God made the world and everything in it was good. There are no intrinsically evil parts of the world. Nothing is evil in its origin. As Tolkien explained about his archvillain in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in the beginning ‘even Sauron was not so.’ You can find this ‘creational good’ in anything.
The whole world is fallen. There is no aspect of the world affected by sin more or less than any other. For example, are emotion and passions untrustworthy and reason infallible? Is the physical bad and the spiritual good? Is the day-to-day world profane but religious observances good? None of these are true; but non-Christian story lines must adopt some variations of these in order to villainize and even demonize some created thing instead of sin.
The whole world is going to be redeemed. Jesus is going to redeem spirit and body, reason and emotion, people and nature. There is no part of reality for which there is no hope.