God created everything that exists. That includes us. We might have suspected this. We might have suspected a designer of some sort. But we know this because scripture tells us.
What God created is good. Again, we might have suspected this. The world around us is full of the kinds of things we need to live. We cannot escape being astounded at the magnificence of the world around us … at least on a few occassions in our lives, whether we journeyed to see a magnificent landscape or just looked up at the stars.
Something has gone wrong in this world God created. This, we can hardly escape. For all the beauty and magnificence, there are far too many things that can wound us and kill us. We cannot pay any attention at all to the interactions between human beings before we are clear that we people mistreat other people. We expend huge amounts of energy on who is mistreating whom and how. And if we are the least bit introspective, we discover that same evil lurking inside ourselves. We knew all this, but we would hardly be certain about the details if scripture didn’t tell us. There may be some ancient evil that predates the existence of humans, but as soon as we had a choice we humans joined that evil in revolt against God.
And then … time after time after time, God reached out to call us back to him. He plants the seed with Abraham, the one through whom all nations will be blessed. The penultimate expression of God’s love comes in the liberation of Israel. They march out of Egypt because God called them, because God set them free in spite of Pharaoh, because God intends for them to be a light to the rest of the world.
God gives the nation of Israel a law. It encapsulates all the fundamental things expected of every person on the earth, and it includes a set of rules that sets Israel apart from everyone else. Above all it calls the nation to love God first and then to love everyone around them as well.
Then the ultimate expression comes when one specific individual in that nation of Israel stands out from everyone else. God become human, Jesus teaches, he heals, he does all the things that would suggest the kingdom of God is breaking out in the midst of fallen humanity.
As must always happen on this fallen earth, what is good meets opposition. Jesus is unjustly accused and tragically executed. Yet, Jesus seemed to know all along it was going to happen. He told his disciples it had to happen. Somehow, mysteriously, God would reconcile all the rest of humanity through the unjust execution of this one individual.
The power that lay behind what Jesus was doing is most exuberantly demonstrated when Jesus is raised from the dead and appears alive to his disciples three days after he died. The world rendered its judgment. Jesus had to die. God rendered his judgment, too. Jesus will live. The world’s judgment is reversed, and the power of death itself is dealt a fatal blow. Death may claim each of us eventually, but just as Jesus himself was raised from the dead, we too have hope that we will be raised back to life, restored to the condition God always intended, incorruptible and in perfect relationship with God.
This good news, this good news about God’s Messiah, God’s Christ, God’s anointed one here on earth, is now handed to those who first saw it and they are ordained to go tell others. Those who hear this good news and believe it, find themselves with the same enthusiasm and the same power the original witnesses have. They in turn tell others and the message spreads.
That’s where Acts leaves off and we pick up. But here is the rub: we might have suspected God created the earth. We might have suspected it was originally good but somehow corrupted. We could never have guessed the part about how God tried to restore our relationship with him. That is God’s great secret, the big reveal. We know that only because scripture told us so.
Think about that a second. We know that God loves us. We know that God is trying to restore us to what we ought to be. And we only know that because scripture tells us. In fact, we are asserting that scripture is precisely God’s way of telling us the things we could never have known unless God told us.
Keep that in mind as you read scripture. If it really is all we say it is … if it really is God’s revelation to us, then it is a conduit for a power to transform us that cannot be matched by anything else. We should approach it carefully, humbly, and, yes, even reverently, ready to hear scripture tell us something we may not like, we may not even be fully ready to hear, but that can ultimately lead us to a perfect joy that we can only find in God.