By Amy Wiebe
The gospel I heard growing up started with Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This led to how we all sinned and separated ourselves from God. It ended with how Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead to redeem us and restore us back to himself.
Nothing is untrue about that presentation of the gospel, but as my husband and I have been going through some excellent training on church planting this year, I’ve learned that it’s simply not the whole story. When you look at the entire biblical account as an overarching story of God’s love for humanity, the story has four parts: creation, the fall, redemption, and new creation. Recently we heard a speaker, Jim Mullins, say omitting the creation and new creation pieces cuts the arms off the gospel. He challenged us to consider what we could do with no arms. We answered with things like run, play soccer, talk, smile. Then he asked us what would be difficult. We answered brushing our teeth, eating, writing, playing the piano.
Those first two chapters of Genesis before the fall may not be comprised of very many words, but they are rich in depth. Our Father is a masterful artist. He didn’t create just to make a world for us. He could have made it far simpler. We didn’t need mountains and canyons and beaches. He could have made everything a desert. We wouldn’t have known the difference. The fact that he chose to create the world he did tells us about his character. He cares about art, beauty, created things. He created us and intended for us to create. Have you ever thought about the fact that he showed restraint in his creation? He could have created flying cars, iPhones, and robots from the beginning. But instead, he created us to be creators too. I imagine he experiences joy as we create new things that point back to him.
The Bible tells us, “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13 NIV). That, along with Revelation 21, is referring to the new creation. God will create again once he has eradicated evil from this earth. He will restore the earth to what it was originally meant to be. He makes all things new. What a hope we can find in the beauty of the new creation. The redemption restores us to our Father through Christ here and now. But the new creation will restore our planet. As the old hymn goes, “What a day, glorious day that will be!”
Let me give you an example of how cutting off the arms of the gospel can affect one’s worldview. Growing up, I understood only the fall and redemption pieces. I knew I was a sinner saved by grace and that Jesus paid my debt. Although I’d heard the Genesis creation story, I didn’t recognize it as a crucial element of God’s overarching story. Thus I was careless with our planet. I cared nothing about recycling or taking care of our earth, because I didn’t think we’d be living here long anyway. Why take care of something that will be destroyed in the end?
I cannot even express how writing that pains me now. I must care for the earth because the God I love and adore lovingly created it for me to enjoy! Our planet is to be lovingly cared for, cherished, and nurtured, because God first cared for, cherished, and nurtured it.
In our church plant, we’re going through a process of telling our stories at our weekly missional community gatherings. We’re challenging our group to listen for the four elements of God’s story in the stories of each person as they’re told. When Mary’s mother remarries after being widowed, that’s new creation in her story. When her best friend tried to commit suicide, that’s the brokenness of the fall. When her family took in the best friend to stay with them for a while, that’s the beauty found in redemption.
I’d challenge you to think of your own story and relate it to the creativity of the original creation, the brokenness found in the fall, the restoration we find in the redemption, and the beauty of the new creation. What if, as we share the gospel with others, we listen to their stories? What if we connect them to God’s story? And then to our own stories? With the help of the Spirit, this could give our precious gospel arms–arms that could allow someone to see Jesus in his fullness for the first time.
Amy Wiebe is a Jesus follower, wife, mom of three, church planter, finance director, and lover of sarcasm and deep conversation with friends. She also loves camping, rafting, skiing, sewing, and having people over. Amy blogs with her husband at fringechurch.com.
Photograph © Igor Ovsyannykov, used with permission