Story through the lens of Jesus.
Story through the lens of Jesus.
Dedicated to those who at one time were stuck in their story!
This is an except from a book I wrote called "A Rogue Story." Perhaps it can help you understand how to see your personal story and the narrative of others around you through the proper lens.
The Author, The Hero, The Ghost, and The Villain!
All good stories begin with someone who who plays the ultimate character or hero. In developing an understanding of our own story we must first go directly to the author. Now I know this may sound odd because most of us (If you are anything like me) feel like we have been the authors of our own confusion, loss, and failures. Our stories read like a book pre-judged by it’s cover, or one tossed away for some other more practical use like starting a fire in the wood stove. This is the result of a mis-understanding of who the real author really is and what His purpose is for you. You wouldn’t toss aside a novel by Hemingway or Tolkien. You see, we like to think that we are the hero in our own story, but if we take the time to search the roots or ancestry of our stories, we can better understand why things unfold the way they have and ultimately free ourselves from having to be the Author, the Hero, or the Villain! How is this possible you may ask? It is because our Author has experienced every role there is to play and He in fact knew me before I was formed in the Womb..
Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It takes very little understanding about our Author to come to the conclusion that He not only knows our story but is orchestrating each roll that plays out in our lives with perfect execution. Every scene is played out perfectly with all of His nature, personalities, and attributes being directed by and in the fulness of the Godhead. When we come to grips with the understanding that the author really knows what He is doing then we must change our perspectives about His plan and purpose for us while accepting that our story has been written by Him. This is the point that can transform our understanding of our story because it is here that we become free to see ourselves through the creative lens of Jesus.
So, how do we view our lives, our story? Is it possible that some of our stories have been hijacked throughout our lifetime? How do we view others around us, our family, our friends, most importantly those who have gone through difficulty whether it is adversity or the consequences of sin. How do we view others who have different life experiences and persuasions? Is it our part to distance ourselves from those who have a different theological perspective? Should we allow ourselves to see others through the lens of past failures or mistrust? Should the view of myself be substantiated by the report of others who have not walked with me, but who know about my past? Or, does Jesus model a whole different perspective for us to follow where none of these questions come into play? These are all important questions to ask as we approach them through the simplistic lens of Jesus, giving us the right view of our story.
Through the lens of Jesus and because I have spent time getting to know the Author, something wonderful has happened in my own story. I have fallen in love with the author of my story and I am certain that on my behalf, Jesus comes to me and He is only motivated by His love for me. It is this passionate attraction for me that is packaged in such a way that it demonstrates itself by being relational with me, speaking with me, and lavishing me with the full provisions of His mercy and grace. He never puts me in a time out; He does not withdraw Himself from me, analyze my actions, and prequalify whether or not I am worthy of love. The Good News is that He is your Author too!
Jesus said... “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This story and lens of Jesus corrects our theology and understanding of the story of God, It makes it relational and not religious! I like how the Story of Christ and seeing things through the lens of Christ drastically impacted the lives of guys like Peter and Paul in the most profound but simplistic ways.
Peter gives me the hope and ability to see that those who are religious in their theological perspectives can, not only be used by the Lord but, that they can change their perspectives radically. You remember the story when Peter had to go with a bunch of Gentiles to the house of Cornelius. He must have been totally freaked out! Good religious Jews especially Apostles didn’t roll with Gentiles. They were considered to be fodder for the fires of hell. (I have been on both ends of this perspective. I have felt that way about others because of my own religious pride and I have also been on the receiving end of those who are non relational and religious in their theology). Needless to say, Peter is placed in a position where if he is going to develop into the simplistic model of how Jesus showed us to live, then there is going to have to be a change in how he views others and it can only happen through the loving lens of Jesus. Read the story in Acts 10 to see how the Lord lovingly does this as Peter moves along through what could be considered as a very uncomfortable journey into the world of the Gentiles. In the story, Peter becomes what we call a relational theologian, not an academic theologian. I believe that God wants all of us to be relational theologians because they are the best kind of theologians. Why? A relational theologian tracks everything in scripture through the nature and Heart of God. The goal of God is to make all of us into His image. That is why Jesus was so relational In fact that is why we can so easily identify that His attraction was for the sinner and not the religious who thought that they were without sin. One of the first things that God reveals to peter is…
where Is this instruction. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
I used to think that I was a commoner! Now I believe that I am not so common. God has captivated my heart, cleansed me from my sin and pride and filled me with His Holy Spirit. It was a process and a part of my story! Some will be skeptical of my story, others will hear it and relate, and my heart is that they be restored in their relationship with Christ and those around them. The great news is that all of this happens in people prone to fail in their own stories, people who do horrible things like lopping of ears, freaking out over little girls who call them out around burn barrels, those who deny over and over again that they ever knew Him or that He even exists. That is the Story line that Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith likes to use. Those are the folks that He makes relational but, not so common!
All that being said, our theology must be relational and in line with His primary purpose if we are truly to become living epistles. Note however that if you are like Peter, this position may get you a reputation of being unlearned but, it might also help the religious folk and sinners alike, identify that you have actually been with Jesus as was the case of Peter. Peter spoke from a level of relationship that the religious leaders never had.
One of the reasons I don’t get systematic theology is because there is no pathway through the heart and nature of God and it mostly ends up as rules somewhere.
When we study the Bible, we are studying the one who wrote it. If all you are doing is studying the principles of scripture then you are missing the heart of love that Jesus had for us while we were yet sinners. The Bible is a love story that causes us to fall in love with the author. When we believe on Him and embrace the simple faithfulness of Jesus towards us, He puts His Spirit in us and hides us in Him. Then begins the glorious process of sanctification where we go from glory to greater glory in His presence!
Saul who later was transformed to be called Paul through this lens of Jesus started out as an academic theologian. He had no understanding of the presence, He had totally missed the visitation of Jesus, and was convinced that he was serving the purposes of God in persecuting the church while breathing death threats to the disciples in the name of Jesus until one day, Jesus loved this religious man so much that He lifted the scales from pauls eyes and allowed Him to see His story through the lens of Jesus. This is what he said about himself…
I was educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the laws of our fathers. I’m a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, Circumcised on the eighth day, of Isreal, of the tribe of Benjamin, as to Law a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to legalism, blameless. I lived according to the strictest sect of our religion.
Here is the cool thing about the model of Jesus and seeing things through the lens of God. Christ will reveal Himself and love even the most religious!
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
There is Hope for the religious who say “Who are you Lord”? It’s sad to have all that pedigree, all of that learning, to have followed all of the principles and procedures without having an encounter with Jesus in the development of your theology.
The Good news is that Jesus loves the religious and the sinner alike! He sacrificed Himself for all of us. The sinner, the hypocrite, the religious, and the broken hearted alike. Paul exhibited all of these attributes and Jesus identifies Himself to him and shows His love and forgiveness to him, radically opening Paul's’ eyes to what relational theology has the ability to do.
If he can do it in train wrecks like Peter, persecutors like Paul, and guys like me who have been on both ends of the spectrum, then He is able to show himself, and lavish us with His love no matter who you are.
Just ask Him, Who are You?
So Who is Who?
One central character with the ability to assume multiple roles in any story is at the very nature of who God is. We were created for His pleasure and nothing gives him more pleasure than a story that glorifies Him. In order to break our stories down to a very simplistic understanding of the plot behind them, we must also have a simple understanding of what comprises the very make up of who God is. In order to do that, let’s look briefly at the Trinity or the sum total of who God is.
I like to wrap my brain around this Idea by viewing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as… Me, Myself, and I. These are the three distinct person’s of the Trinity where Jesus is depicted as eternally, The One True God. It's not mathematically understood if your equation isn't correct! For instance, It is never 1+1+1=3. It is always 1x1x1=The ONE true God!
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Whenever the beginning was, wherever it was, whatever it might have been, Jesus—the Word—was already there. He had no beginning and He has no end. He is eternally God. Jesus is also equally God. …and the Word was with God… Jesus, the Word, was with God—equal to the Father and the Spirit.
Now, I know what you might be thinking… “I thought there was only one God?” There is. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” Deuteronomy 6:4 says. But the word used for “one” is the word echad, which refers to a compound unity, like one people, or one cluster of grapes. And so, God is a synthesis, a “tri-unity.” One plus one plus one does not equal one. But one times one, times one, equals one! And that is the mystery of the Trinity.
Allow me to introduce myself! Author, “I Am.”
“My name is I AM,” answered the Lord (Exodus 3:14).
In this particular story, Moses must have scratching his head in confusion and thought, You are… what You see, not realizing that what God really is would only be fully and completely revealed when Jesus Christ came on the scene.
At the end of His ministry, Jesus could say, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou hast given Me. (John 17:6). Because of this, He filled in the blank completely and perfectly.
Jesus in His great “Ego-Eimi” statements showed us how that He was fully God and the Author of our Story. He doesn’t tell us the way. He is the Way. “Whom seek ye?” He asked of the soldiers who had come to arrest Him. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “Ego Eimi,” said Jesus. “I AM.” And the soldiers—most likely several hundred in number—fell over backward (John 18:4–6), knocked down not by anything Jesus did, but by the sheer power of who He is. So, too, once you grab this, once you see it’s not something Jesus gives to you, but who He is for you, you’ll be knocked out. You’ll say, “Lord, I’ve been asking for clarity in my story and looking for the answers to my plot. But in reality it’s all wrapped up in You personally. And if I rest in Your arms, My story will have the right ending. If I stay close to You, I’ll be protected. If I cling to You, I’ll feel whole. If I allow You into my life, I’ll feel satisfied at last?” “That’s right,” Jesus answers. “I am the Way. I am the Door. I am the Vine. I am the Bread.” The Story starts with Him and ends with Him!
But there is even more to this Jesus, fully God in the flesh, who has come to be the central figure of our story!
One person plays multiple parts!
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
The Super Hero
Colossians 1 reads like the identification of the Super Hero, Jesus Christ: Creator of the speeding bullet, His Spirit more powerful than dynamite, not just a leaper over problems but a fixer of any problem. Born a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned his father’s trade and, more than likely, he was good at it. His expertise in the art of carpentry isn’t what makes him memorable; it’s his unique knowledge of intimate details related to God. Jesus demonstrated that he was God by performing miracles, resisting great temptations, and teaching life-changing lessons despite his age or lack of education. His business practices are legendary, using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. So attractive is the story of Jesus that the multitudes were drawn to Him and if you introduce Jesus as the real hero of your story, He becomes one who is simple for everyone to believe in and look up to. That’s because Jesus is God. Because of who he is, he has the ultimate power.
Not only is He the One True God, and our Hero, He is the Ghost!
The Ghost Story
As a child, while on camping excursions, we would take turns conjuring up ghost stories to pass the time late into the twilight hours, around campfires or huddled in our sleeping bags, usually with the comfort of a flashlight in hand to shed light on the fears that were now becoming our realities.
The Holy Ghost Story here is much different than the spook tales of old. His work is explosive and His presence is comforting. He goes about His business drawing no attention to Himself perpetually leading, guiding, comforting and revealing the central character of our story. Let’s let the Word of God Speak for itself!
But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:9-13 (KJV)
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.
[Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
This is one Ghost Story that is vital to having a great story of our own!
Not only is He the Author and Finisher, the Hero, Comforter, and the Ghost in the Story but He is the Villain too!
John 3:14-16 (KJV)
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus Christ became the Villain, or the Snake if you will in the story! How, you may ask did He do that? Simple! He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) in order that the wrath of the Father over the sin of the world would be appeased. Instead of smashing a world that is full of snake’s and villain’s, He turned to His innocent Son and laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.
Not only did Jesus know what this meant going into it, He did it anyway, all while knowing that I was the worst villain of them all. I can only assume that this is why in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed with such intensity, and sweat drops of blood. “Father, if possible, don’t let Me drink of this cup” (Matthew 26:39). But, it wasn’t physical death Jesus feared; it was the wrath of His Father that caused Him to break out in a bloody sweat (Luke 22:44). Jesus knew what it meant to be the total satisfaction of my debt, the appeasement of Gods wrath that I had alone deserved.
God Himself became a Man, His name was Jesus. Jesus being fully God, absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. He died, arose again to be seated at the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to guide and Comfort me. It is The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Jesus covering me, It is the Story of God as my Author, Finisher, Hero, Comforter, Ghost, Snake and Villain who was able to be all of this for me while wielding all of the wrath that I deserved upon Himself. The Ultimate Story!
Hopefully by now, You're beginning to understand why Jesus is not only the best Author of our story but that He is the perfect Finisher of our story!
I Like Action Adventure Stories.
You ever feel like you thought you had a character figured out in a story only to find out that there was another side to them. That is the beauty of having Jesus as the main Character of our story! It makes for a great Adventure!
When I hear the Story of God, when I understand my roots, and believe in His plan for my story, My outlook on the plot changes. There is hope! Life becomes an adventure and the thought of exploring the storybook of my life now becomes one of interest. It as if I have just landed the supporting role in a good Action/Adventure movie and the movies director has just yelled… Action!
Simplifying the Plot of Your Story
Now that we understand Jesus’ part and role in our story, we can warm up to the idea that in order to really live and tell a good story, it all boils down to Jesus being lived out in and through our story!
Hebrews 1:9 says, Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness “more than any of His fellows.” That is, He had a gladness about Him that was unparalleled in any other person. Truly, whoever looks at the Lord cannot help but be impressed with Him. One would think however, that the secret to such attractiveness, effectiveness, and joy would be very complex. One would think that Jesus must have understood esoteric mysteries and implemented difficult methodology. But such is not the case, for throughout the scriptures, we see the simplicity of the secret Jesus understood that produced in Him the life that was so successful and so beautiful. What was this secret? The very foundational principle that governed His entire life was His relationship with His Father. If I were to question you about the defining principle of your life, you might say, “It’s my ministry,” or “It’s my family,” or, “It’s this vision,” or, “It’s this attempt to see the kingdom grow.” You might on the other hand, define your story as one that is full of tragedy, fear, rejection, failure, and disappointment. Regardless of your personal triumph or despair and as valid as those things might be, they are insignificant in comparison to your relationship with the Father. That’s all there is—no other agenda, no other failure, no other ministry, no other disappointment, no other vision, no other attempts to right all of the wrongs, and no other priority. By comparison to what had at one time been my own personal tendencies, Jesus was so focused on His relationship with His Father that nothing else mattered. As a result, everything else fell into place beautifully. His life was fruitful. His relationships were special. His ministry was bountiful, and His Story is amazing! A simple walk of faith in Him is the only thing that will get your story moving in the right direction! It is my hope to share His story, how it has impacted my story, and how every story, every path you are on, has been ransomed through Christ!
The chapters that follow in "A Rogue Story" are all about characters in the bible, characters in my story, a rogue sense of adventure, and how we can go about living out the story of Jesus in in our own lives.
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John is Pastor at The Redeemed Adventure Project and Author of various Adventure Journals, Fireside Challenges, and Blogs excerpts from books he written over the last 12 years.