There are plenty of cynics and late night comedians who enjoy denigrating Christianity. Most of them, however, demonstrate a limited and distorted understanding of the faith. They work off of bits and pieces of knowledge about what it means to be a Christian.
Disconnected pieces of knowledge most often give an inaccurate picture of the faith. A lot of information circulating about the faith actually distorts and misrepresents what Christians believe.
It’s perhaps more important than ever before to provide people with a simple yet comprehensive picture of God’s plan for humanity. When answering specific questions from unbelievers, we should always try to place our answers into the larger frame of reference like the one I provide in the five point outline.
It is perhaps equally accurate to say that most Christians only possess scattered and superficial understanding of their faith. We must learn to think more coherently about what we believe and why we believe it.
Here I offer God’s plan for humanity in a five point outline.
On each point, we need to hit the zoom lens and develop some of the more important things to understand about it in relation to the others. We also need to develop a rich vocabulary for each of the five points.
As we understand the flow and connection of all five, we’ll be able to think more clearly and deeply about God’s amazing grace toward humanity. We’ll be better equipped to talk intelligently about our faith with those who do not yet believe.
Five points for understanding God’s plan:
- Creation: the original story
- Depravity: the back story
- Grace: the salvation story
- Growth: the present story
- Glory: the end story
Five primary goals
- To provide a simple way of thinking about and sharing God’s overall plan for His people.
- To move beyond the superficial clichés often used to talk about the faith by exchanging them for a rich vocabulary of identity and security in the God’s plan.
- To connect the truths of God’s plan that must be understood together for each one to convey its full meaning.
- To equip believers for sharing their faith by showing them how to connect specific questions to the overall plan.
- To show how God’s plan should affect the way we look at (and live) all aspects of life (success and failure; gain and loss; suffering and sadness; hopes and ambitions).
The five points here provide an outline for understanding our relationship with God from beginning to end. We should aim to have a working knowledge of essential truths under each point. Our goal should be to develop a rich vocabulary for thinking about and sharing God’s amazing grace toward humanity.
We must ask what each of the five points contributes to the way we see ourselves and the world? The five points developed here will help you know how to think and talk about life in this world more realistically and hopefully.
The world as we know it is God’s stage for His plan. You could look at it as four main acts.
- Act 1. Creation is the stage and first act of the world’s drama.
- Act 2. In the second act, sin enters the picture, but only as a spoiler of God’s good creation. Creation is original; sin is a corruption of it or a parasite on it.
- Act 3. In the third act God’s powerful intervention through Jesus Christ is the story of creation being restored.
- Act 4. The final act as we know it is glory restored.
The image of God is the primary starting point. God singled out human beings when He moved from “Let there be” and “Let the earth” to “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,” God distinguished humans also by entrusting them with the subhuman order, “so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
After God completed His work, He “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). We had a very good beginning (and, intuitively, we know it). But those intended for greatness have fallen. We must view sin as falling short of the glory God intended for us – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We were meant for much more (and, intuitively, we know it).
It should not be surprising or unexpected that most people feel like something is missing from their lives. We have moments when life feels whole, full and satisfying but these times easily give way to a sense that we’re not what we’re supposed to be.
- Something great has fallen from its greatness.
- Something amazing has lost its amazement.
- Something beautiful has lost its beauty.
- Something whole is broken.
- Something healthy is sick and in need of healing.
- Something peaceful has been disturbed.
As a result of the fall of humanity away from God, those who were whole are broken, partial or fractured. All human beings in this life are a combination of dignity and depravity. We find in each person a mix of good and bad but every seemingly good part is tainted with the bad. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). The reach of human depravity extends to every atom of our being. Sin is without borders in us (see: Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:12).
A sad set of terms are fitting to humanity: lost, wayward, drifting, restless, fallen, broken, fractured, alienated, separated, partial, incomplete, and dying. This is why the vocabulary of salvation suits us. We need intervention, rescue, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.
As we think about humanity, we can speak of…..
- A glory we once had (Genesis 1:26-27).
- A glory we fell from (Romans 3:23; 5:12)
- A glory being restored in us through God’s gift of salvation (Romans 6:23; II Corinthians 3:18)
- A glory fully restored despite our present suffering: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Mediate deeply on these amazing words from Scripture: from depravity to glory
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:4-10, NLT).
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:3-5, NLT).
- He Foreknew us
- He Predestined us
- He Called us
- He Justified us
- He Glorified us
Without the connection of the back-story of paradise lost and human depravity, these words will not carry the weight they deserve.Their rich meaning will not be embraced. Perhaps, instead, we might believe that we are doing quite fine without God or that we just need a little help from God. We might even foolishly think that we can make ourselves acceptable to God.
We will also fail to grasp the great significance of the security described in Romans 8:35-39
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”