You know about fortune cookies. You are at a Chinese restaurant. You have enjoyed a good meal with friends, but there is a ritual to perform at the end of the meal. Your server brings you a small tray with the bill and a fortune cookie for all. Everyone eagerly tears off the wrapper, breaks the cookie, reads their fortune, and shares it with others – a fitting and fun end to a great meal.
Unfortunately, that’s the way many Christians approach the Bible. It has become a book of “sayings,” “promises,” “principles,” and “commands” – only. Kind of like fortune cookie sayings. We read them, memorize them, pray about them, claim them, and sometimes obey them – all good. But too often we don’t realize these individual sayings are pieces of a larger narrative that exists to change people … and the world. Far too many Christians treat the Bible as a book of “Fortune Cookie” sayings. Their faith never rises above individual statements and never connects to the history-long, world-shaping narrative of God’s plan. They go their merry way with their spiritual Fortune Cookie saying for the day.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a powerful remedy to this problem for it tells us that our Gospel connects to a world-wide and history-long story. The Story tells of a God who created a beautiful world and placed image bearers to live in it, to cultivate it, and to manage it for his glory. But the story took a dreadful turn. The image bearers rebelled against the King and in spite of his loving efforts to restore them, they continued to rebel and set up defiant kingdoms in the world and created offending caricatures of the true God. The world plunged into darkness.
Yet, God continued to reach out to the world of men, promising through his people Israel that he would restore his reign upon the earth. Those rebels who submitted to his kingdom could find release from sin and the restoration of his image in them. God would create a people for his glory, and he would one day fill the earth with his glory – paradise would be restored.
This is a long ways from “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Although a true statement and one that God has used to introduce countless men and women to Christ, it is only a crumb from the Master’s table when he invites the Church, and the nations through the Church, to his Gospel banquet. Or, to use the Story metaphor, he invites us to explore, learn, and tell the full story and not just a portion of it. We are part of a history-long, world-wide story! When God’s people learn and embrace this Story, the Narrative of Power – The Kingdom of God – they will find themselves letting go of Fortune Cookie Christianity for something far greater.
In my book, Changing the Stories of the World, I explain how large segments of the Church have truncated the Gospel by not connecting it to God’s kingdom plan. Jesus did not preach a Gospel of “pray this prayer and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” He proclaimed the kingdom of God. So did Peter, Philip, Paul, and all the apostles. The opening verses of Acts tells us that Jesus taught his disciples the kingdom of God during his 40 days after the resurrection. The last verse of Acts tells us that Paul was proclaiming the kingdom in Rome.
I hope you will get a copy of Changing the Stories of the World, deepen your understanding of the Gospel, and share your faith more confidently and fully for the glory of God in his world.
The Church, like ancient Israel, has always faced the enemy of false gods. To ancient Israel they looked like the faces of Baal or Astarte, gods and goddesses of fertility or like the faces of Bel and Marduk, the gods of Babylon who had conquered Jerusalem.
But the enemy has a different face today for it is telling its story in a new way. The new story is “your god is OK. My god is OK. Everyone’s god is OK as long as we believe. Right?”
And this is where we must humbly say, “No. Not right.”
We live in a country where 94% of the people claim to believe in God. Big deal! In Paul’s world, I would guess that 99.9999% of the people believed in God. An atheist was a rare commodity. The problem was that they believed in the wrong God, and the problem for us is that when people say they believe in God, they don’t have a clue what they mean about “God,” or, they have another version of God in their mind. This is why our message must include “the Gospel of God” – an explanation of who he is, his nature, his creative purposes, and his promises to restore the world to himself. When we do not present the Gospel of God to people, we may not be giving the proper theological context, worldview perspective, or narrative background for our presentation of the Gospel of Christ.
Today, the promotion of Generic Theism is in full swing. We hear of:
- The higher power of Alcoholics Anonymous
- The intelligent designer of academic debates
- The human-evolved-into-the-Father god of Mormonism
- The Great Mind or Soul of Hinduism
- The pantheistic god of new age spirituality
My guess is that these beliefs substantially pad the 94% of survey results. We no longer have the luxury of assuming that “God” means the God of the Bible to everyone. We certainly would not assume that in India. We should no longer assume it in the West. And for this reason, when we present the Gospel, we may first need to present the Gospel of God – the good news of who God is, what he is like, what he has done, and his call for absolute allegiance and solitary worship.
Would you like to learn more about the Gospel of God and changing the stories people believe about God, about the world, and about themselves? We hope you will get a copy of this important book, study it thoroughly and equip yourself to share the Gospel with clarity and conviction to the confused. Order here.